Verdict: A well-written, fascinating memoir that’s well worth a read.
The subtitle of Joanne Blackwelder’s memoir HUSBAND says it all: “My Forty-Year Marriage To A Gay Man.” This moving memoir relates the story of her slowly-disintegrating marriage to Steve – from the romantic and carefree beginning of their relationship, through trouble and turmoil to the tragic end.
It’s tempting to think that a memoir of this kind might be steeped in bitterness, but in this case it’s actually not. Blackwelder draws on the extensive material she found in Steve’s journals to get an alternate viewpoint, and keep her narrative – for the most part – fair-minded. The relationship itself, despite its issues, was not as acrimonious as you might imagine, either. Despite seeking a divorce, the couple decided that they didn’t wish to split from one another entirely, and so continued living together for a time.
As well as being as reasonably balanced as anyone might expect a memoir about a marriage to be, HUSBAND is also exceptionally well-written. Blackwelder is a poet first and foremost, and her written ability seeps through into the text in the form of vivid and memorable descriptions that bring the many scenes of the story to life.
It is difficult to review the plot of any book, like HUSBAND, that is based on such raw and intense personal events. At times the narrator is un-likeable – her actions vulgar and erratic. At times, despite her commitment to fairness, her narrative feels a little self-pitying or self-centered. But in each case I felt that Blackwelder deserved credit for being so truthful – for including the parts that painted her in a less than favorable light, and for not shying away from her own, sometimes selfish, feelings.
The book as a whole is fascinating. Rarely will you get so intimate a portrait of a marriage, replete with so much detail. The overall effect is a moving, wide-angle portrait of the full scope of a couple’s relationship. By the end (and it’s not a brief read, by any means) you’ll know these two individuals intimately, and have a window into some of the most private and personal moments of their life.