By Laura B. Hayden
Staying Alive: A Love Story is a tale of hope and renewal that centers on Hayden’s search for meaning after the untimely death of her 49-year-old husband. Coupled with other experiences of loss in her life – including one of her kidney’s to cancer -- she is determined to, with her children, persevere.
Like Annie Dillard, Hayden draws on the rhythms and rituals of the natural world to explore her Brooklyn roots and New England adulthood. Wild creatures and domesticated critters, seasides and hillsides proffer comfort and understanding as she comes to realize that “no more than a hairline and no less than an eternity” separate her from the man she loved. Even with the wear and tear her faith endures, it rarely diminishes.
Her purpose – to usher her two grieving children through a difficult adolescence to a well-adjusted adulthood – resonates through her own struggle. With the precise objectivity reminiscent of Joan Didion’s The Year of Magical Thinking and Joyce Carol Oates A Widow’s Story, Hayden recounts the day her husband died and the rituals and obsessions of the bereaved. Forced to look at death straight in the eye, the author stares back, wide-eyed, without blinking through her tears.
Hayden also manages to be seriously droll - in an Anne Lamott way. Never is her humor more honed than in the portrayal of her deceased spouse, whose devotion, antics, and wisdom remain ever-present to those who are staying alive without him. His death becomes not only the family’s heartbreak, but the loss of a well-executed life for all who knew him or will get to know him through her memoir.
Whether Laura Hayden’s writing deals with herself, her children, or her cadre of loved ones, it is clear that she, her daughter, and her son emerge from their tragic loss survivors, not victims of Larry’s death, an outcome of which he would be very pleased. In a culture of intentionally exposed and celebrated self-victimization, the story of this family may be considered a quiet triumph.
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In her luminous memoir, Staying Alive: A Love Story, Laura B. Hayden shares personal observations about loss and grief written after the death of her beloved 49-year-old husband, Larry. Faced with raising two children alone and her own struggle with cancer, Hayden digs deep to tell her poignant story of life reinvented. Her astute observations of the natural world clearly informed her ability to create a totally invested life for herself and her children. Here, they contribute to her inspired and vividly real story of perseverance that speaks to human resilience and the power of love.
Irene Sherlock, author of Equinox
With vivid candor, Laura Hayden acknowledges the many ways grief overwhelms a young woman as she builds a “new normal” after her husband’s untimely death. Leading the reader into her life and the lives of her two children, Laura searches for a reason to make sense of the tragedy. Never with pity, Laura embraces the image of her husband in their children, as they grow into adults. When tragedy strikes again, in the form of cancer, Laura gives the reader another glimpse of faith and strength. Told through her voice, Laura will take you on a journey of love and sorrow, joy and hope, and ultimately the conclusion that our loved ones are never completely gone from us.
Elizabeth F. Szewczyk, author of My Bags Were Always Packed: A Mother’s Journey Through Her Son’s Cancer Treatment and Remission
Laura Hayden's memoir is a powerful reflection on the most unimaginable loss a person can suffer--the sudden death of a spouse. Hayden is a rare author who combines personal maturity, honesty, and wisdom with an excellent writer's sense for how to tell her story in a way that discovers the universal humanity in such a private event. She is able to celebrate the beauty and joy of life while simultaneously plumbing the depths of a great sorrow. To invoke a cliché that is perfectly apt in the case of Laura Hayden's new book, "you'll laugh, you'll cry." Most of all, you'll connect.
John Sheirer, author of Loop Year and Growing Up Mostly Normal in the Middle of Nowhere