AfterImage is a brokenhearted memoir of a charmed life.
Carla Malden believes she has the perfect world, a husband who adores her, a daughter who is a blessing, a career that shines and great friends and family. Carla and her husband, Laurence Starkman, are a husband-wife combo team who writes screenplays together. They are not only lovers but they are each others best friend. Their only hope in life is to grow old together and watch their children and grandchildren grow.
Only, things don't always go the way we wish for them to. On the day that they learn of Laurence's cancer, Carla feels her world has come crashing down around her and she wraps herself in a coat of denial. Following doctors advice, new agers, guru's and any source they can find to make Laurence well and whole, they follow. Every lead, every mention, they make themselves appointments, eat weird things, try different therapies in the hopes that they will cure the cancer so that they can continue along with their idyllic life.
After the first surgery and the ensuing chemotherapy that follows, Carla, Laurence and their only daughter, Cami, continue to hope and pray that all will be well. They never stray from any suggestion and they feel they are doing everything right. We watch as Carla goes through the stages of grief, first and foremost, she is in denial, through the better part of the book, Carla has serious difficulties coming to terms with her husband's illness, almost believing that if she just wished hard enough, all will be well. She deals with her anger, at herself, the doctors and Laurence, especially Laurence, who she feels has betrayed her by not living, not trying harder. She bargains with God, even though she is not a firm believer, she bargains with fate, karma, anyone who will listen, begging them to make her husband better. She becomes depressed to the point where putting on her own makeup makes her feel guilty for being healthy, and finally, the acceptance of the situation, of being left to grow old alone, sets in and she begins to prepare her mindset for Laurence's inevitable passing.
I found the book heartbreaking, as we walk into the soul of Carla, seeing the situation from her eyes, and hearing the desperation of the hopelessness of her situation. Even though I already know the outcome, I can't help but feel rallied by Carla's conviction of her husband's recovery, if this were a Hollywood movie, Laurence WOULD have been cured.
Their intense love of one another and their commitment to survive was written in a very compelling and heart wrenching manner and I wished that ending could have been happier for all involved. The book doesn't rely on the grace of God, as most books of this genre often do, she remains true to herself and doesn't incorporate a false belief system in hopes of bargaining for more time. The writing is from the heart, and the final stages of their story will leave you crying for what could have been, and in the same aspect, you are shown that their life had been good and they can be thankful to have the memories that they do to survive with.
The only downfall to the book that I could see, is that, I had wished to see some photos of the family. Photos of happier times as well as, photos of his strength and determination to fight the cancer that had invaded his body. Carla Malden has written the story in such a way that I came to be a part of the family with her words and yet, I know not what the family looks like, other than the cover shot of Carla on the sleeve jacket of the book AfterImage. I feel that with the pictures included, the story would be complete, instead of leaving the reader just a little bit lacking. All in all however, it is a well written read that I am sure you will enjoy, especially if you are a cancer survivor family member, it gives you courage to understand that you are not alone, and allows you to stand up and face whatever comes your way head on. Bad things do happen to good people and reading this story will allow you to see this, no one knows when our end will come, we can only build our memories for the future generations to share and sometimes, we leave behind a piece of us that will live on forever.