cover image Tell Me Good Things: On Love, Death and Marriage

Tell Me Good Things: On Love, Death and Marriage

James Runcie. Bloomsbury, $27 (224p) ISBN 978-1-63973-152-7

A widower turns grief into a profound appreciation of his wife’s legacy in this poignant elegy. British novelist and playwright Runcie (The Grantchester Mysteries) recounts the 2020 death of his wife, Marilyn Imrie—an audio-theater director for the BBC—of motor neurone disease, an incurable ailment that causes creeping, fatal paralysis. Runcie offers a clear-eyed account of her agonizing decline alongside intimate glimpses of his nearly unhinged grief at her death, but also passionately remembers Imrie’s life: her generosity, ebullience, and occasional prickliness; her colorful outfits; her wit (“Henry James ‘always chewed more than he bit off,’ ” she quipped); and her influence on his writing as a coach and editor. Runcie entwines beguiling digressions on everything from Victorian mourning customs to the philosophy of soccer fandom among his evocative vignettes of their life together: “There we were, eating pizza and using Chekhov to talk about the comedy and pathos of everyday life, the desire of the characters to be more than they were, the disappointments of those who felt that life had passed them by, and how to make the future a realistic possibility rather than a dream.” The result is that rare thing, a moving exploration of a great marriage and its ability to nourish the mind and heart. Photos. (Feb.)