From the author of Writing a Woman's Life comes an inspirational reflection on aging and the gift of life in your 70s and beyond. When she was young, distinguished author and critic Carolyn Heilbrun solemnly vowed to end her life when she turned seventy. But on the advent of that fateful birthday, she realized that her golden years had been full of unforeseen pleasures. Now, the astute and ever-insightful Heilbrun muses on the emotional and intellectual insights that brought her "to choose each day for now, to live." There are reflections on her new house and her sturdy, comfortable marria≥ sweet solitude and the pleasures of sex at an advanced a≥ the fascination with e-mail and the joy of discovering unexpected friends. Even the encroachments of loss, pain, and sadness that come with age cannot spoil Heilbrun's moveable feast. They are merely the price of bountiful living.
She made that choice not at 70 as she predicted, but at the age of 77. Her death was controversial -- why on earth would anyone kill themselves when they weren't yet terribly sick or impaired? -- but speaks to a conviction about the value of life that is startling. Her last note read as follows: "The journey is over. Love to all." It's your call whether her decision was foolhardy or courageous.
In "The Last Gift of Time" Heilbrun articulates many ideas you will have thought yourself, but never as clearly or eloquently. And she formulates many ideas you will disagree with, which is all the more interesting. What is clear throughout is that she utterly relished life, which gives her choice on how to conclude it a stunning resonance.
In the spirit of honoring a life well-lived, I should note that Heilbrun is the author of the delightful Kate Fansler mystery series, written under the pen name of Amanda Cross. Vastly enjoyable, good mystery, and highly intelligent, just like Heilbrun herself.
Gave it a 4 only because some of the chapters, written in the late 90s, are dated - like the one about email and the internet.