Today I’m not only talking about Christmas as I declare “It’s almost here!” I’m also thinking of the end of 2020. Thinking of it as the “year that was” should feel good.
And with those thoughts, we can move ahead into 2021 with hope and anticipation of better days ahead.
When I read the last words of Susan G. Weidener‘s Again in a Heartbeat, I knew I would be picking up Morning at Wellington Square. Susan had shared the story of a blissful courtship and love found under blossoming dogwood trees with a man who loved her more than she had ever imagined possible. A story of building a family and careers disrupted by her husband’s long and difficult battle with cancer.
I wanted to understand how a young woman with two young sons moves on from the hurt and pain of loss, a loss many of us will never experience, much less so early in life. Morning at Wellington Square is Susan’s honest and moving tale of finding her way through a maze of responsibilities and social interactions as a single, working mom.
Like a tapestry woven from rich and vibrant threads, Susan invites us along as she searches for identity beyond the roles of daughter, wife, mother, journalist. The book opens 11 years after John’s death, and John and Susan’s son’s are away at college. Living in their home alone, Susan is aware it is time to map out her journey into a new role.
However, as Susan’s writing shows us by using flashbacks and memories, lives continually build upon memories while anticipating the unknown waiting down the road.
For me, the search for community or, as others might describe it, relationship was the most meaningful and poignant part of Susan’s story.
Having been a single mother with a son in my 20s, the search for relationships, whether with the opposite sex or not, can be like walking through a mine field. After all, how do we ever know who another person really is? Is a relationship or community the source we seeking to heal our scars?
Following a testing of friendships and even a move to Arizona, Susan comes home and unexpectedly finds a way to share her gift of creative writing. One day while driving around she happens upon a bookstore called Wellington Square. And here she and others gave birth to the Women’s Writing Circle. These women, through Susan, have experienced a new life through writing and sharing their writing with others. And through Susan, her books and her blog, Susan shares her experiences as a journalist and writer with the rest of us.
I highly recommend Morning at Wellington Square to those working their way past grief and loss and to those who are looking for a way to heal from those painful emotions through writing. Susan is a gift to fellow memoirists and other writers.
Again in a heartbeat . . . an ordinary turn of phrase. We’ve all said it. Some of us mean it; some of us say it jokingly.
Susan Weidener, in writing about her husband John and their life together, through good times and bad, means those words. In fact, she uses them as the title of her memoir, Again in a Heartbeat.
Susan’s writing style is comfortable and her story draws you in immediately . . .a young woman meets the chair of the English department at the military academy where her father had chaired the same department and went on to become dean. Immediately, the reader is caught up in the potential for romance, a life together forever, and dreams. Susan writes in an engaging manner of their joys and plans, of their intense love for one another. Their life together is so believable.
And yet it will come to be a story of love, loss and starting over again.
Soon, Susan and John are happy parents of two sons. But in the midst of that second pregnancy, something evil and daunting enters their life together, their family. John is diagnosed with cancer, and this uninvited guest begins to change the course of their lives forever.
Susan Weidener is not shy in sharing her most intense emotions during this time in her life. In fact, at times the rawness of her exchanges with John are almost unfathomable to the reader. You ask yourself how could she love him and say that? But the reader must remember, he or she is not at the center of the story. The writer is opening a door onto her story, and the reader is allowed a glimpse of what was.
Weidener takes her reader on a journey through serious illness, loss of John, and then to starting life over again on her own with two young sons. She tells this story with frankness and honesty, and anyone reading her words is soon awash with a sense of hope and promise. As the title so aptly states, Susan Weidener was willing to do it all over “again in a heartbeat.”
When the reader arrives at the last page, there is no doubt that Susan and John shared an incomparable love for one another, that Susan felt hope as she faced her tomorrows, and that this author has written a guide for anyone who has loved and lost.
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