When Her Husband Said He Wanted to Die, Amy Bloom Listened

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The pandemic arrived “like the snow at the end of ‘The Dead,’” Bloom said, referring to James Joyce’s classic story — a few flakes at first, then blanketing everything. Bloom’s daughter, daughter-in-law and granddaughter came from Brooklyn to ride out the storm. Bloom kept writing in the afternoons. She laughed. “My kids tease me, they say, ‘You expected to be sitting by the pond, in gray gauze, staring into the distance.’” Instead she was absorbed by work and the rhythms of family life.

By September 2020, Bloom had a draft to share with her longtime editor, Kate Medina, the executive vice president, associate publisher and executive editorial director of Random House. Medina attended Bloom and Ameche’s wedding and was at his memorial service; readers see her there in the book, quietly marking up a manuscript before the start of the ceremony.

In a phone interview, Medina said she was accustomed to working with Bloom on novels, although she did edit “Normal,” Bloom’s examination of gender and sexuality, which was published in 2002. She wasn’t surprised or daunted by Bloom’s decision to tell such a personal story. “If you’re a writer and something like this happens, the healthiest thing to do is to write it,” Medina said. “You can make up your mind whether you put it in a drawer, but you have enunciated the feelings.”

Medina encouraged the braided structure of “In Love,” which is, as its subtitle promises, a memoir of love and loss, in that order, with chapters alternating between the distant and recent past. “There’s that Kierkegaard quote: ‘We live our lives forward and understand them backward,’” Medina said. “I think it’s breathtaking the way Amy can write about the elephant in the room. Her forthrightness is on the page. So is her humor, and Brian’s.”

Early reactions from readers have been positive, even rapturous. “Amy Bloom writes with the full bandwidth of her humanity,” one Goodreads reviewer effused. A recent widow wrote, also on Goodreads: “I can only say that this book comes from a place of truth. It should be required reading for any grief group.”

On the anniversary of Ameche’s death, Bloom brought a cup of tea out to the linden tree she planted in his honor. He had a sweet tooth, so she placed chocolates around a plaque engraved with a favorite Rumi quote. It reads: “What is the body? Endurance. What is love? Gratitude. What is hidden in our chests? Laughter. What else? Compassion.”

“I definitely feel his presence,” Bloom said.

As for how strangers will respond to “In Love,” she appeared to be at peace. “Brian’s strong wish was that nobody would stop him, and he got his wish. And I was glad I could help him.”

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