WHAT PEOPLE ARE SAYING...
When his wife, Cecily, daughter of Get Smart's Don Adams, was diagnosed with lung cancer at age 45, actor Jim Beaver (Deadwood) began writing e-mails to friends and family each night, providing himself with a cathartic outlet and saving him from having to repeat, over and over, the increasingly grim details. But after he death in '04, Beaver kept writing, using the nightly missives to process his grief about Cecily (better know to Star Trek fans as Moogie) and his worries about their daughter Madeline, now 7, who had been given a diagnosis of autism just before her mother got sick. Beaver's bracing honesty makes this a Hollywood story that will resonate, a chronicle of heartbreak that ends - not to spoil things - with hope. It's also a reminder to cherish your own partner. As Beaver puts it: "Not all couples get to grow old together, no matter how desperately they want to."
Carolyn Kellogg, L.A. Times:
If this is a testament to human survival -- which it is -- it is also a testament to the power of connection, to what it means to translate emotions and experience into words and then send them out in the dark.
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Beaver, an actor, playwright and film historian, collects a series of riveting, heartfelt e-mails chronicling the courageous cancer battle of his beloved wife, Cecily, from her diagnosis of lung cancer to her death in little over a year. Unafraid to examine their life together and his acting career as a performer on two popular TV dramas, the role of Ellsworth on Deadwood and Bobby Singer on Supernatural, he kept family and friends informed with his nightly online messages of Cecily's deteriorating status and the bittersweet childhood of their autistic daughter, Maddie. The revealing e-mails depict the somber travail of Beaver on the horrific death watch of his wife, and detail the roller-coaster ride of emotion from hoping for a speedy halt to the disease's onslaught to experiencing the dark abyss of loss. After the death of his father during this time, he writes: "This year of writing has freed me from the shackles I don't know I could have borne otherwise." While this cancer memoir often chills the reader to the core with pain and frustration, it offers countless reasons to cheer Beaver as a remarkable man, a loving husband and a responsible single parent.
All was going well for character actor Beaver (featured on HBO's Deadwood) and his wife Cecily (acting teacher, casting director, daughter of comic Don Adams) when suddenly their American Dream turned into their personal nightmare. Jim's father, Cecily's father and other family members became ill. Their toddler Maddie was diagnosed as autistic. Then, just when the Beaver family was preparing to move into their new home, Cecily was diagnosed with cancer. By spring she was dead. To help cope, Jim composed thoughtful midnight e-mails for 150 family and friends. During the course of a year, his messages gained wide circulation by being forwarded to thousands of readers. Edited for this book, they form a genuine memorial: sometimes clinical, frequently sentimental, always openhearted. Early, hopeful entries tell of chemo, transfusions, blood tests, oncology consults, CT scans and MRIs. It wasn't long before Cecily developed an inflammation surrounding her heart and pneumonia that required a ventilator. Throughout the winter of his young wife's illness, Beaver maintained that "the fight has only begun and has a long, long way to go." Readers, of course, know the inevitable end. After this devastating loss, Jim's nocturnal musings turned to his daughter, who with early intervention soon shed the diagnosis of autism, along with memories of her lost mother. The author warmly acknowledges the friends, family, helpers, babysitters, companions and bringers of good thoughts, food and love. His passionate book is about how we mourn, a topic familiar sooner or later to every reader. Beaver treats it with uncommon honesty and a bit of wisdom. A year of grief and love, forthrightly revealed.
"Sometimes, you are lucky enough to read a book that changes you. It changes the way you look at life, and relationships, and the things that really matter. It reinforces what you've always know, and reminds you of what's really important. Life's That Way is that kind of book."
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"By sharing his thoughts in his nightly emails and now, by sharing them with Life’s That Way, Beaver invites into his dialogue in hopes that it will shed light on a unspoken experience and provide encouragement to others to do the same. And he knows it is not easy."
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"LIFE'S THAT WAY is a heartbreaker, but is also rich in hope, humor, and insight into how to survive losing the things that matter most to you, and then rebuilding your life from the ground up. I cried over this book, but I cracked up too... This book should be required reading for everyone who has ever loved anyone. Losing someone you love may be part of the deal when it comes to being human, but this book shows that real love is worth it."
"Night after night, Jim Beaver reached into his heart and wrote emails that were unabashed love letters -- to his wife, his daughter, his friends, and now, through this book, to the rest of us. Despite great sadness, he writes with humor and a sense of exhilaration about the gifts found in marriage and the lessons learned through loss."
"A memorable and poignant story, written with compelling frankness. I can't wait to recommend this to everyone I know."
"Jim Beaver, the laconic character actor best known as the appealing prospector, "Ellsworth," on Deadwood has written a compassionate, funny, searing, and ultimately transcending memoir chronicling a year of tragedy, grief, and survival that would send the strongest of men, even an ex-marine and West Texas preacher’s son, to their knees. As Jim puts it, "I’m no Job – though I think we went to the same school." That his story is so compulsively readable, inspiring, and ultimately hopeful is due entirely to Jim’s bracing honesty, dry humor, and deeply felt humanity. Read this book, tell your friends about it, and then go hug your loved ones."
"To have known and read this man over these years, reveals to me I knew nothing of what love could and should be."
"Jim Beaver has walked through the valley of the shadow, and returned with a moving testament of discovery."
"LIFE’S THAT WAY grabbed me and wouldn’t let me go. This book is a husband’s story, a father’s story, a love story, about the dying of his remarkable wife, and the first year of raising their amazing child as a single parent. We all have our cancer stories, but Life’s That Way is one you don’t want to miss."
"Reading this, I quickly learned to keep a jumbo-size box of tissues at the ready. You will cry - and laugh - as Jim unwraps his unvarnished heart and soul. It will evoke memories of everyone who ever touched your heart and remind you to talk from your heart to the people who mean something to you."
"Jim Beaver is the most honest man I know - instinctively, brutally honest. He has opened his heart to us and there is nothing in it but the truth. Deeply caring and richly articulate, he has shared with us the agony of his grief and the gentle beauty of his love. His journal is a gift to us all. I applaud his courage and his goodness. I thank him for his wisdom and his perseverance. I wish him all the joy this world has to offer."
"This is an incredible look into the mind of a man going through a staggering loss. Everyone's coping mechanism is different. Jim's happened to be writing. It still amazes me that while his world was crumbling around him, he was able to express himself so beautifully in those nightly emails. I was honored to be audience to such a personal journey. This book serves both as a love letter to his wife and also as a guide for anyone going through a similar struggle."
"The book is a masterpiece of hot off the press emotions in the face of terrifying circumstances. Every entry brings an unexpected turn in an exploration of human nature. This extraordinary account of a year of unfathomable pain, loss and recovery moved me deeply. I have always considered email to be a glib, cool if not cold expedient means of communication. This book demonstrates the potential power and scope of the medium."
"When I first met Jim Beaver I thought of him as just another of the great actors on Deadwood. A little later I thought of him as a fellow with whom I could have some really good political arguments (Jim is an unreformed liberal and I his opposite). After a bit more work and a few more arguments I began to think of him as a friend. After reading his book I now see him as one of the most loving and compassionate men I have ever known. This book is a free form, compelling read, infused with the raw emotion that only comes from a writer who has seen most, if not all, of life's highs and lows. The obvious love that Jim had for his late wife is tangible in his writing; the loss unimaginable. But he takes the reader with him on every step of the journey. I didn't know this story when I worked with Jim, and when I read it I told him that, given the depth of this loss, the fact that he survived it was more testament to his courage than his time as a Marine in Vietnam. After this read I am even prouder to call Jim my friend."
"Jim Beaver and Cecily Adams shared a love that bards sing about. Madeline Rose, their daughter, sprang from that union of souls. Cecily's early death to cancer could not bring down the curtain on that three-way love or their continuing relationships. Jim's journal of his thoughts and analysis of his and Maddie's life without Cec yanks at your guts and heartstrings. Anyone who is a single parent or who has ever lost a loved one and wishes they could tell the world exactly what they discovered/uncovered in the dark, painful, sometimes comical experience will see their thoughts poetically painted in Jim's book. His terse conversational style is both homespun and moving. Even the stoniest of hearts will need some Kleenex."
"This is a journal straight from the heart and beyond, to the guts and marrow, blood and bone of life and death."
"Jim was sent on an unimaginable journey and his words lead us through a heart-wrenching account of loss infused with hope, humor and compassion. What began as a maudlin task of updating friends and family on the progression of Cecily's illness turned into a touching love story that honored this vivacious woman's life. Extremely personal, honest and vivid, Jim's story will touch and inspire others who are faced with the challenge of having to say goodbye."
"I have known Jim Beaver since I started working in the entertainment industry at age 5. Jim was one of my very favorite people on the set of the first television show I ever worked on; funny and understanding, he greatly improved the experience. Naturally, my family became very close with Jim and his wife Cecily, as did many of those lucky enough to work with either of them. It was after a full decade of friendship that all of our lives were touched by the loss of Cecily Adams. I can say with certainty that this event of unimaginable sadness was mitigated in every way possible by Jim's courageous perseverance throughout that time and beyond. This is clearly and powerfully illustrated in his journal documenting Cecily's illness and passing. I have not yet seen a piece of personal writing spread so fast among friends and relatives; his small mailing list for the journal spread to thousands very quickly. It must be stated that not only is Jim a wonderful human being, but a gifted writer as well, something that makes the pages of his journal even more affecting. Illness and death have touched many of our lives, and there is a wealth of material both fiction and non-fiction available to demonstrate their resonance in our society. That said, it is not often that you will encounter a primary source so honestly and expertly written as this. Expressing what it is like to go through such a tragedy may be one of the most difficult things one can do. Yet, Jim tackled his challenges in an awe-inspiring way. "Inspiring" is a benediction one hears frequently these days, but Jim and Cecily truly embody that which reaffirms others' faith in life. This journal is something that everyone can benefit from reading."
"Jim Beaver is a longtime dear friend of my family. We rejoiced at his marriage to Cecily, and the birth of his daughter Maddie. When he began his sad journey with Cecily's illness there seemed to be no way we could express our deep concern. Jim gave us that way with his daily emails. We were able to join him on his journey -- to figuratively take his hand and travel with him. Jim's openness in expressing his grief gave us the chance to grieve with him. Whether or not you have lived through the kind of experience that Jim has, his writings will touch your heart and make you feel blessed to know the beautiful love of Jim Beaver for his Cecily and Maddie."
"Men aren't expected to be emotionally open, honest, sensitive, vulnerable, or insightful... but Jim seems to have re-written the book on manhood. His journal is an extraordinary and beautifully written piece that poetically and humorously gives an intimate view into a husband's grief, loss and pain. What is most exceptional to me is how this gentle but courageous man reveals what is perhaps the most under-explored region of our lives... the truth. I am so grateful to have been able to go through that remarkable time with Jim. He inspired me, eased my grief, and encouraged me to embrace sorrow as a source of humor and creativity. This is a unique and brilliant work."
"Jim Beaver’s journal of his wife, my friend Cecily’s, battle with cancer, is one of the most powerful, heartbreaking and hopeful things I have ever read. Told as it was lived, in real time, it unflinchingly includes the reader in every moment of the experience, including the days they thought they would win the battle, and the days they knew they would not. Cecily was an amazing woman and she was given the great gift of being loved fiercely through her illness and passing by a man who not only has spectacular strength, heart and character, but the art to share his story with us."