The Best of Us
Winter 2018 Reading Group Indie Next List
— Cristina Nosti, Books & Books, Coral Gables, FL
View the List
The San Francisco Chronicle’s Best of the Year List
Indie Next Pick "For Reading Groups"
From New York Times bestselling author Joyce Maynard, a memoir about discovering strength in the midst of great loss--"heart wrenching, inspiring, full of joy and tears and life." (Anne Lamott)
In 2011, when she was in her late fifties, beloved author and journalist Joyce Maynard met the first true partner she had ever known. Jim wore a rakish hat over a good head of hair; he asked real questions and gave real answers; he loved to see Joyce shine, both in and out of the spotlight; and he didn’t mind the mess she made in the kitchen. He was not the husband Joyce imagined, but he quickly became the partner she had always dreamed of.
Before they met, both had believed they were done with marriage, and even after they married, Joyce resolved that no one could alter her course of determined independence. Then, just after their one-year wedding anniversary, her new husband was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. During the nineteen months that followed, as they battled his illness together, she discovered for the first time what it really meant to be a couple--to be a true partner and to have one.
This is their story. Charting the course through their whirlwind romance, a marriage cut short by tragedy, and Joyce’s return to singleness on new terms, The Best of Us is a heart-wrenching, ultimately life-affirming reflection on coming to understand true love through the experience of great loss.
Praise For The Best of Us: A Memoir…
“'The Best of Us' remind[s] readers to let go of superficial concerns and embrace a deeper appreciation for our lives and the people in them . . . Perhaps with 'The Best of Us,' 'Maynard' will come to have new definitions: Maynard (verb) 1. To find love later in life. 2. To do anything possible to help a loved one in crisis. 3. To let oneself be changed by love. 4. To write movingly about it all.” —The San Francisco Chronicle
“This haunting story, penned by a master wordsmith, is a reminder to savor every loved one and every day.” —Booklist
“In this touching memoir, Maynard (To Die For; At Home in the World) chronicles her second marriage. She beautifully renders the joy of falling in love later in life and the pain of watching her husband die of pancreatic cancer. Maynard's heartfelt story will resonate with those who have lost loved ones.” —Publishers Weekly
“Joyce Maynard has been through so many ups and downs in her life and she communicates her love, pain and everything in between through her life affirming experiences, written with great emotion and clarity in this beautiful memoir. I highly recommend it.” —BookTrib
“Maynard shows us her flaws, her exuberance, her willingness to take risks, to fall in love, and happily, finally, to discover what a mature marriage and loving relationship look like - flaws, cancer and all. Her readers will do more than connect; they will laugh, cry and rekindle hope that the best of us just might be possible.” —Charleston Post Courier
“There isn't a happy ending, but their journey is a beautiful one nonetheless.” —Bustle
“Joyce Maynard's memoir The Best of Us--about her adored second husband--is brutally honest and deeply loving.” —Woman's Day
“The famed novelist and memoirist on meeting the love of her life, marrying, and facing loss.” —The Philadelphia Tribune, "Fall's Big Books"
“Joyce Maynard shares the heart-wrenching but ultimately hopeful story of finding love only to lose it a short time later in The Best of Us (Bloomsbury).” —Parade, "4 Riveting Reads to Try This Fall"
“[Maynard] delivers a moving tribute to [her husband's] memory and a thoughtful exploration of the connection between love and loss.” —The San Jose Mercury News, "Books by the Bay"
“The Best of Us feels like a life come full circle, addressing a much more adult kind of love.” —Signature Reads
“Joyce Maynard is getting up close and personal in The Best of Us.” —7x7
“The memoir is not about death so much as it is about finding in the deep shadows of illness obvious things, like appreciating time with loved ones and the value of dying at home and not in hospital. Importantly, it has Maynard discovering confidence, nobility, dignity and her best self.” —The San Jose Mercury News
“Maynard as caretaker is a revelation, both beautiful and heart-wrenching--a role she undertakes (as everything grows harder) with grit, grace and growth. Her earlier memoirs may have had their naysayers, but no one can naysay The Best of Us.” —The Buffalo News
“The Best of Us is both heartbreaking and uplifting, a chronicle of unlikely, unexpected romance and personal tragedy, as well as a meditation on the nature of love.” —Omnivoracious
“In her poignant memoir about losing her husband to cancer, Maynard reminds readers to embrace a deeper appreciation for our lives and the people in them.” —The San Francisco Chronicle
Bloomsbury Publishing, 9781635570359, 464pp.
Publication Date: September 11, 2018
About the Author
Conversation Starters from ReadingGroupChoices.com
1. Explore how Joyce and Jim harness the power of hope throughout this memoir. Discuss the points in the memoir where Joyce’s hope is tested and how her hopefulness is sustained or diminished in the face of struggle.
2. Compare and contrast Joyce’s understanding of marriage at the beginning of the story and at the end. How does this memoir challenge or reinforce the traditional notion of a “good” marriage? By the end of the memoir, what do you think Joyce’s definition of marriage would be?
3. The commitment to preserving her individuality is a cornerstone of Joyce’s personality, but Jim’s cancer entwines them by vastly altering the course of their life together. How does Joyce maintain her individuality while still being a devoted wife and caregiver? Discuss how Joyce attempts to return to her life alone after Jim’s death. How does one reconnect with themself after a tragedy?
4. The adoption and subsequent rehoming of Adenach and Layla is Joyce’s greatest source of shame. Although she loved her adopted daughters fiercely, it quickly became apparent that she could not provide the home they needed to thrive in their new American life: “They needed a different mother. They needed a father” (50). In your opinion, why was Joyce’s situation so unsuitable? Why was a father so necessary? Explore how, and if, Joyce comes to terms with her decision.
5. Explore the ways that Jim and Joyce come to terms with the finality of death. While Jim comes to peace with the end of his life, Joyce has to come to peace with the rest of hers. In what ways does Joyce prepare for Jim’s death and what effects of loss are unpredictable? Discuss the point, if any, that this memoir makes about the nature of death and fatal illness. How does Joyce grapple with being the one left behind?