I Hope You Have a Good Life: A True Story of Love, Loss, and Redemption

Campbell Armstrong, Author
Campbell Armstrong, Author Crown Publishers $20 (256p) ISBN 978-0-609-60531-8
Paperback - 256 pages - 978-0-609-80722-4
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Heartbreaking and beautiful, Armstrong's memoir turns on a family drama fraught with savage irony: a mother and the out-of-wedlock daughter whom she abandoned shortly after birth are reunited after 42 years--but both are suffering from advanced cancer. The mother in question, Armstrong's ex-wife Eileen, was 17 in 1955 when, at her parents' insistence, she gave up her baby, Barbara, for adoption (the baby's 28-year-old father dropped out of the picture). ""I love you. I hope you have a good life,"" Eileen whispered to the infant, devastated. Barbara's momentous weeks-long reunion in Phoenix with her dying mother, whom she spent years trying to locate, is deeply moving. Glasgow-born novelist Armstrong had a troubled marriage with Eileen amid his bouts of heavy drinking and affairs, leading up to family counseling that failed to extricate him from his love affair with the woman who is now his wife. Having remained in touch with his ex-wife, Armstrong was also reunited at Eileen's deathbed with their three sons, and ruefully examines his own failings as a father. Barbara, still fighting her own illness, becomes an integral part of her half-brothers' lives, almost a surrogate mother. A masterful diagnostician of the human heart, Armstrong writes sensuously, with ruthless candor and wisdom about the wilting of relationships, the courage ordinary people muster to survive, the way tragedy can bring a family together, and how we all die alone. Few will read this intense book with dry eyes. (Aug.)
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