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AfterImage: A Brokenhearted Memoir of a Charmed Life Hardcover – May 3 2011
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“Carla Malden traces the awful journey of her young husband’s illness and death with such precision and care, expressing the emotion between the exhilaration of hope and the darkness of reality so powerfully, that her eloquence turns grief into poetry and enlightenment.” — Blythe Danner
“Carla Malden’s memoir about her husband and screenwriting partner Laurence Starkman is a haunting story of love and loss, and a demonstration of the courage required to put a broken life together again.” — Susan Cooper, author of The Dark is Rising
“All I can say is WOW!!! I read for a living which means I consume over 50 books a year just to prep for my show. Never has one made me cry until I read this manuscript. Although this is a book that will tug at your heart, it is like the tug on a fishing line when you know you’ve got a big one. I can’t wait to share it with others. I’d be honored to have author Carla Malden as a guest on my show. This is more than a book, it’s a blessing for anyone who reads it.” — Barry Kibrick, Producer and Host: Between the Lines
Emotionally raw from start to finish, the story . . . also celebrates a rare and profound love that transcended death. A brutally candid memoir of the ‘all-consuming and profoundly uncomplicated’ power of grief.” —Kirkus Reviews
A searing account of how the author coped with her husband’s year-long struggle with colon cancer and his untimely death.
Screenwriter Malden—daughter of actor Karl Malden, with whom she wrote the memoir When Do I Start? (1997)—had been together with screenwriter Laurence Starkman from the time they were high-school students in the late 1960s. Certainly by Hollywood standards, their partnership had proven to be remarkable, and not just for its longevity, but for their deep connection. “We got each other in a way that we knew no one else ever would or could. Soul mates, they call it.” So when Starkman was diagnosed with colon cancer in 2006, Malden was devastated. The good—some would say “charmed”—life she had been leading with her beloved “best friend” had now turned permanently upside down. Without mincing words, the author chronicles her harsh awakening into the very human world of suffering. The day of Starkman's diagnosis, she unwillingly entered a “foreign land” in which “I [did] not speak the language.” Literacy was forced upon her through radical immersion in her husband’s unexpected health crisis. Bewildered, angry and frightened, she struggled to adjust to the demands of his metastasizing cancer, which included endless rounds of hospital visits, blood tests and chemotherapy and a fruitless search for balance and normalcy. Malden’s experiences with illness and the eventual bereavement it brought offered no glimpses into higher spiritual truths or God. For her, a universe in which cancer could strike down her vibrant husband was “random…capricious and nihilistic.” Emotionally raw from start to finish, the story makes for admittedly difficult reading. What saves it from sinking into pure melodrama are its fleeting moments of humor and the fact that it also celebrates a rare and profound love that transcended death.
A brutally candid memoir of the “all-consuming and profoundly uncomplicated” power of grief.
From the Inside Flap
I will say it right now, from the start, that the most I will be able to offer is this: For some inexplicable reason—at once miraculous and diabolical—the heart keeps beating even when it is irreparably broken.
The eye experiences an afterimage when a bright light is extinguished. But there are also afterimages of the heart, afterimages that remain imprinted well beyond the time a beloved has died.
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The disease-fighting chapters provide a vivid description of the emotional roller coaster that accompanies late-stage cancer. Carla knows her medical terms and colon cancer treatments. She describes Laurence's surgery and how he dealt with his colostomy. She describes the chemotherapy, the catheter port, and the neuropathy. She hits it on the nail when she writes: "Chemo nurses are a special brand of angels." I can relate with her when she writes: "I am not a caregiver...I am his wife.... I wanted to get back to Laurence's hospital room, in the way that you can think of nothing but returning home to your baby when you leave her with a sitter for the first time...."
Carla describes Laurence's agonizing pain at the end. There's no whitewashing. Here's an example: "Sometimes Laurence lay in bed, legs bent, and shook. He did not tremble; he shook. Because his body could do nothing else against the pain.... Pain management remained the issue of the day--every day, every hour, every minute." For Carla, the pain created a major dilemma: "All he wanted was to be out of pain. All I wanted was to have him defogged, to have him back." She describes how Laurence felt trapped in his body: "It was too scary: the sight of my husband caved into a chair, eyes closed, desperate to be somewhere else--somewhere other than his own body." Here's more: "The only place without pain was so far away, too far away. He couldn't go there and still be here."
Finally, Carla understands that the fight is over: "I had been desperately clinging to the illusion that he and I were still living in the same universe. But at this moment, I knew that this was no longer the case. The agonies inflicted on him by his body dictated his world now. He could only interpret events in terms of how they would impact his own private hell."
Carla felt guilty that she had not agreed to stop the fight sooner: "I am so sorry I trapped him there.... I did not allow myself to understand how horrific the pain was.... How could so much medicine have done so little?" From behind his morphine drip Laurence breathed: "It's okay." He died shortly after.
The grieving part covers the last third of the book, and it's just as powerful. Carla writes: "The yearning is a bitch. A longing that does not subside...." She discovers that the love relationship continues after death: "I find myself in an ongoing relationship with a dead man. Rationally, I suppose I don't want to go through the rest of my life married to a dead man, but the alternative happens to be worse, as it turns out, I more fiercely do not want to go through the rest of my life having let him go.... We are still dancing, Laurence and I. Together."
Carla builds on her memories: "Memories are what I subsist on.... There could not be too many memories." She does not believe there is an end to grief: "Time heals nothing.... The pain does not diminish. The pain does not change." Her remedy: "Somehow you are still alive. So what you learn is that you can live in this much pain.... Time allows you to accumulate numbers of days lived in pain, one after the other--days that you would believe would have killed you, but have not."
To net it out, "Afterimage" is a powerful memoir, an amazing love story, and a masterpiece within its genre. It's about how we live, die, and grieve in the age of cancer and high-tech medicine. Carla is a courageous, avant-guard writer who tackles death and dying in all its modern rawness. It's a must read for all lovers, especially baby boomers who are now entering the end-of-life queue. Of course, no one reads that kind of stuff. Why? Because we don't believe we're ever going to die. Death is something that happens to others. As a result, these masterpieces, sadly, go unread.
Robert Orfali, Author of Grieving a Soulmate: The Love Story Behind "Till Death Do Us Part"
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.
In the novel After Image by Carla Malden, we get to share in her personal memoir of dealing with the loss of her husband Laurence to cancer at such an early age in their marriage. The story is so touching and real for me because I couldn't imagine a life without my husband in it and it was difficult for me to read Carla's words as she takes us through her journey of dealing with finding out her husband is diagnosed with cancer and the subsequent battle she faced in trying to beat it.
Nothing can prepare the reader for Carla's words come through as though you are sitting with a close friend who is walking through her grief. We get to see "snapshots" of Laurence's life so we are getting to know both of them in the process. Carla's memoir is about as real as it comes for anyone who has ever dealt with grief or even facing the unknown turmoils and challenges that cancer can bring. From dealing with all the unknown's going through your mind as you try to search for an answer that may defeat cancer, to walking through the minutes and weeks of chemotherapy hoping against hope that no matter how positive you remain, in the back of your mind doubt and fear still peers it's ugly head.
I received this book compliments of Pump Up Your Book for my honest review. This book rates a 5 out of 5 stars for me. It offers a different perspective of dealing with a loss of a loved one so great that you wonder if life will ever be the same again. The only thing that grieves me is one statement in the beginning of the book where the author quotes, "But cancer was the villain in our story, and while I emerged from this year with no glimpse of God, I began to wonder toward the end, if, in fact, the devil does indeed exist, and if we were not battling him mano a mano." (pg 3). I personally believe that God is present in everything we go through even though it appears that at that time, God was silent as this happened. You will definitely need a box of tissues to go along with this one. It grabs your heart and makes you really appreciate the time we have with the ones we love!