In a deeply personal and moving book, the beloved NPR radio host speaks out about the long, drawn-out death (from Parkinson's) of her husband of 54 years and of her struggle to reconstruct her life without him.
With John gone, Diane was indeed on her own, coping with the inevitable practical issues and, more important, with the profoundly emotional ones. What to do, how to react, reaching out again into the world - struggling to create a new reality for herself while clinging to memories of the past. Her focus is on her own roller-coaster experiences, but she has also solicited the moving stories of such recently widowed friends as Roger Mudd and Susan Stamberg, which work to expose the listener to a remarkable range of reactions to the death of a spouse.
John's unnecessarily extended death - he begged to be helped to die - culminated in his taking matters into his own hands, simply refusing to take water, food, and medication. His heroic actions spurred Diane into becoming a kind of poster person for the "right to die" movement that is all too slowly taking shape in our country. With the brave determination that has characterized her whole life, she is finding a meaningful new way to contribute to the world.
Her book - as practical as it is inspiring - will be a help and a comfort to the recently bereaved and a beacon of hope about the possibilities that remain to us as we deal with our own approaching mortality.
I want to state up front that I am a Diane Rehm fan, so I am not happy to write such a negative review. Do I blame Diane for this rambling, disjointed book? No. I blame her editor. This person should have pointed out how the chapters could have been better organized and the multiple times when she is merely repeating ideas that did not need to be reiterated more than two times. This person has clearly failed her and the book.
The story begins, quite predictably, with the decline and demise of Diane's beloved husband John. From there, the story takes many jumps around in Diane's life, weakening the message(s) that she hopes to convey. First and foremost, Diane tells many stories about her relationship with John, freely admitting that he was a emotionally abusive husband (shutting her out many times emotionally, leaving her to feel as if there were something wrong with her). However, she continues to dote on him to the point where, as a reader, I wonder if she is suffering a very mild version of Stockholm Syndrome. Second, Diane jumps backwards often to discuss her own life and her choice to pursue a career in radio. While I find this interesting, she has written other accounts, so I feel as though these were not really relevant to the focus of this book -- On My Own (implying life after John). Third, she addresses how much she desires to advocate for Euthanasia or Assisted Dying. While I find this topic fascinating, her continual circling back to it and repetition about things she has already covered gets old. I respect her decision and hope that she does continue to advocate for such an important issue, I don't feel that she really achieved her goal of convincing others to investigate and possibly decide the same on their own. Lastly, the book continues on and on and on. Just as I would feel that she had finally reached the end, there would be another chapter. The book is just too long because it seems that she cannot bear to end it. Sadly, by the time she does finally say goodbye, I was more than happy to let her go.
The one bright aspect of the book is Diane's choice to narrate it. Her voice sharply divides people -- they either love it or hate it. She is right when she talks about how her voice is not one designed for radio. But I admire her for refusing to let it deter her career choice. I also admire her choice to narrate her own book, even though, at times, it seems to fail her (I'm sure the continual reading took its toll on her voice and probably took place over several settings -- perhaps before and after voice treatments?). No one else could read her book, and I am glad she made such a choice.
If you love Diane, then I am sure you will listen to this book no matter what my review says. My goal is more to prepare you for what you will hear rather than disparage Diane and her story.
2 of 2 people found this review helpful
Diane's honesty re Johns illness & death and her responses is so helpful to those of us sharing that journey.
Five years after the death of my husband I felt gratitude over and over as I listened to Diane's honest assessment of her marriage and her life without her husband. I felt I was listening to a trusted friend.
inspirational; motivational; honest; thought provoking; heart warming and courageous. A not to be missed read.
The Diane Rehm show was a favorite of mine when we lived in DC and now I am so glad I can listen to her podcast.
This book is such an accurate account of the many aspects of grief and a personal look into her own grieving and also her marriage and family life. I loved this book and would recommend it highly.
Where does On My Own rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?
Among the best - authors don't always score by narrating their own books but Diane seals it!
Who was your favorite character and why?
What does Diane Rehm bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?
Her story is riveting and I can empathize with her pain from my own personal experience. I can feel her pain and joy in her voice.
If you were to make a film of this book, what would the tag line be?
This does not need to be a movie.Not everything does.
Any additional comments?
Really admire Diane - a self made and educated woman. Brutally honest and love her NPR show - she keeps the commentators on track. Would rather listen to Diane and her views than the commentators for the most part. They are too much into praising each other which gets old - very clubby that strikes listeners like me as disingenuous.
Interesting and fascinating life , emotionally honest and brave regarding fears and trials of her journey. A bit tough due to redundancy and slow parts that circle same concept. If edited better would be A+!