Synopses & Reviews
Donald Hall's celebrated book of poems Without
was written for his wife, Jane Kenyon
, who died in 1995. Hall returns to this powerful territory in The Best Day the Worst Day
, a work of prose that is equally "a work of art, love, and generous genius" (Liz Rosenberg, Boston Globe
Jane Kenyon was nineteen years younger than Donald Hall and a student poet at the University of Michigan when they met. Hall was her teacher. The Best Day the Worst Day is an intimate record of their twenty-three-year marriage at Eagle Pond Farm of their shared rituals of writing, close attention to pets and gardening, and love in the afternoon. Hall joyfully records Jane Kenyon's growing power as a poet and the couple's careful accommodations toward each other as writers. This portrait of the inner moods of "the best marriage I know about," as Hall has written, is laid against the stark medical emergency of Jane's leukemia, which ended her life in fifteen months. Hall shares with readers as if we were one of the grieving neighbors, friends, and relatives the daily ordeal of Jane's dying, through heartbreaking and generous storytelling.
The Best Day the Worst Day stands alongside Elegy to Iris as a powerful testimony to both loss and love.
"'Jane Kenyon died of leukemia at 7:57 in the morning, April 22, 1995' is the first sentence of this unsparing and beautifully structured memoir. She was only 47, and the struggle was harrowing, but it followed 23 years of an extraordinarily happy marriage between poets, blissful despite the difference in their ages (19 years; she had been his student), and her illness and chronic clinical depression. Alternating with the meticulous account of the progress of Kenyon's disease are warm, joyful chapters as Hall recalls their time together. They lived quietly in a New Hampshire farmhouse that had been in Hall's family for generations, 'the house of poetry, which was also the house of love and grief; the house of solitude and art; the house of Jane's depression and my cancers and Jane's leukemia.' As increasingly famous poets, Hall and Kenyon traveled, on reading tours around America and abroad. Hall's impressions of China, Japan and especially India, which they both loved, make vivid reading. Also glowing are the portraits of friends, relatives and the caregivers who crowded into their lives. Hall wrote about Kenyon's illness and death in his 1998 book of poems, Without
, but this heartfelt memoir should reach people who seldom read poetry and could be a natural for reading groups. Agent, Gerald McCauley. (May 1)
" Publishers Weekly
(Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"An account of her illness, their life together, and the calming landscape of New England...a gem." USA Today
"A bright, wonderful book." --New York Observer
"A fearful and beautiful history." Boston Globe
"Elegantly and lovingly tells the story of their life together." --Christian Century
"Marriage, art, and illness are all treated with wisdom in Hall's account." New York Sun
"Haunting...The language is spare, clean, very readable." --Poetry
"[The Best Day the Worst Day] aims to show us the sacredness of the everyday, the magical qualities of the circle of life...Hall is such an evocative writer." --Book World The Washington Post
"[A] moving portrait of marriage." The Miami Herald
"Hall has turned his pain into art that can inspire and help others deal with loss." The Oregonian
"Hall portrays the creative, peaceful life [he and Jane Kenyon] carved out for themselves...A moving tribute, unsparingly honest." Kirkus Reviews
Donald Hall's celebrated book of poems "Without" was written for his wife, Jane Kenyon, who died in 1995. Now he returns to this powerful territory in a work of prose that is equally "a work of art, love, and generous genius" (Liz Rosenberg, "Boston Globe").
A candid memoir of love, art, and grief from a celebrated man of letters, United States poet laureate Donald Hall
In an intimate record of his twenty-three-year marriage to poet Jane Kenyon, Donald Hall recounts the rich pleasures and the unforeseen trials of their shared life. The couple made a home at their New England farmhouse, where they rejoiced in rituals of writing, gardening, caring for pets, and connecting with their rural community through friends and church. The Best Day the Worst Day presents a portrait of the inner moods of "the best marriage I know about," as Hall has written, against the stark medical emergency of Jane's leukemia, which ended her life in fifteen months. Between recollections of better times, Hall shares with readers the daily ordeal of Jane's dying through heartbreaking but ultimately inspiring storytelling.
About the Author
Donald Hall has received the National Book Critics Circle Award
and the Los Angeles Times
Book Prize in poetry for The One Day
(1989), the Lenore Marshall Award for The Happy Man
(1987), the 1990 Frost Medal from the Poetry Society of America for Old and New Poems
(1990), and the Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize. He is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters and lives in New Hampshire.