When her husband said he wanted to die, Amy Bloom listened
The pandemic came “like the snow at the end of ‘The Dead,'” Bloom said, referencing the classic James Joyce story – a few flakes at first, then covering everything. Bloom’s daughter, daughter-in-law and granddaughter came from Brooklyn to ride out the storm. Bloom continued to write in the afternoons. She laughed. “My children tease me, they say, ‘You expected to be sitting by the pond, in gray gauze, looking away.’ Instead, she was absorbed in work and the rhythms of family life.
In September 2020, Bloom had a draft to share with his longtime editor, Kate Medina, executive vice president, associate publisher and executive editorial director of Random House. Medina attended Bloom and Ameche’s wedding and was at her memorial service; readers see her there in the book, quietly annotating a manuscript before the ceremony begins.
In a phone interview, Medina said she used to work with Bloom on novels, although she edited “Normal,” Bloom’s examination of gender and sexuality, which was published in 2002. She was neither surprised nor discouraged by Bloom’s decision to tell such a personal story. “If you’re a writer and something like this happens, the healthiest thing to do is write it,” Medina said. “You can decide if you put it in a drawer, but you’ve stated the feelings.”
Medina encouraged the braided structure of “In Love,” which is, as its subtitle promises, a memoir of love and loss, in that order, with chapters alternating between the distant and recent past. “There’s this quote from Kierkegaard: ‘We live our lives forward and understand them backward,'” Medina said. “I think it’s amazing how Amy can write about the elephant in the room. Her candor is on the page. Her humor too, and Brian’s.
The first reactions from readers have been positive, even enthusiastic. “Amy Bloom writes with all the bandwidth of her humanity,” a Goodreads reviewer said. A recent widow wrote, also on Goodreads: “I can only say that this book comes from a place of truth. This should be required reading for any bereavement group.
On the anniversary of Ameche’s death, Bloom brought a cup of tea to the lime tree she planted in her honor. He had a sweet tooth, so she placed chocolates around a plate engraved with a favorite quote from Rumi. It reads: “What is the body? Endurance. What is love? Acknowledgement. What is hiding in our chests? To laugh. What else? Compassion.”
“I definitely feel his presence,” Bloom said.
As for how strangers will respond to “In Love,” she seemed to be at peace. “Brian’s strongest wish was for no one to stop him, and he got his wish. And I was happy to be able to help her.