***This book was reviewed for the Manhattan Book Review
Banged Up Heart is a poignant memoir of life after the death of a cherished one. Of letting go, and learning to love again. And yet again. My heart went out to Ms Melis as I read. To lose not one, but two people so close in heart such a short time apart is a sad thing. Finding the courage to love again can be hard. Opening up to the certainty of future loss… well, I have no adequate words.
It has been a couple of years since Joe, Shirley’s husband, passed from cardiac complications. She’s ready to begin exploring dating again, but her first attempt is an embarrassing disaster with a man who shares waaay more personal information than is appropriate for a first date. Then comes John, who is smitten with her from the first. John, who has a rare form of cancer that’s been in remission for years. The two embark on a whirlwind courtship and marriage full of fun and travel. Sadly, it comes to an end too soon when John’s cancer returns with a vengeance.
I am particularly impressed by Melis’ ruthless honesty regarding her own infidelity, and tendency towards rash action. To speak the full truth of oneself is a brave thing. Everyone has flaws as deep as their virtues are high. Both shape us, and we can learn from our flaws if we confront them head-on. I love that she acknowledged the Shadow in John, and said she could love his darkness, his flaws, too.
John sounds like a wonderful person who encapsulated a philosophy I try (and often fail) to live by. To dance with life, dance in the rain, and accept what is. And for Shirley, I believe she learned the lesson of another philosophy I live by, one very hard to consider, especially in the wake of devastating loss. Auguries of destruction be a lullaby for rebirth. Destruction, in any form, always bears the seeds for new growth.
Some parts of the narrative did feel a little rushed to me. At times, the self-deprecation, and internal perceptions regarding how fast the relationship with John was developing were a little off-putting to me, though I acknowledge that it is my own perception.
📚📚📚📚 Recommended if you enjoy memoirs, or need some guidance and inspiration for learning to let go in your own life.