cover image THE BEST DAY THE WORST DAY: Life with Jane Kenyon

THE BEST DAY THE WORST DAY: Life with Jane Kenyon

Donald Hall, . . Houghton Mifflin, $23 (258pp) ISBN 978-0-618-47801-9

"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)