cover image Late-Life Love

Late-Life Love

Susan Gubar. Norton, $25.95 (272p) ISBN 978-0-393-60957-8

New York Times columnist Gubar (Reading and Writing Cancer) references literary works to present a probing discussion of aging in this bittersweet memoir. At 70 and in remission from ovarian cancer, Gubar and her 87-year-old husband, Don Gray (both retired English professors at Indiana University), grappled with the prospect of moving from their home of 21 years to a more manageable condo. Gray was recovering from a torn tendon caused by a fall as Gubar set out to gather and ponder literary works addressing late-life love. Her intriguing text moves organically between two overriding topics: the first being domestic and concerning practical issues that arise as the devoted couple faces health issues (a nicked bowel during ovarian cancer surgery left Gubar with an ostomy bag), as well as concerns about their four adult children, grandchildren, and aging friends. The second is how “autumnal romance” is portrayed in works by Samuel Beckett, Marilynn Robinson, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, and others. Though Gubar presents a sampling of thorny examples (for instance, Updike’s “late-life lechery” in his third “Rabbit” novel), she also unearths many that offer views of aging love as deep and inspiring. Gubar’s wise, honest, and frequently humorous work (“the Latin word for old woman is anus,” she notes) reveals that even amid the inevitable struggles of old age, personal and conjugal reinvention is not only quite possible, but also quite possibly lovely—both in literature, and in life. (Nov.)