As she battles debilitating illnesses, May Sarton looks back on her life, cherishes new and old friendships, and finds hope in the brave new world of old age
“I always imagined a journal that would take me through my seventy-ninth year,” May Sarton writes, “the doors opening out from old age to unknown efforts and surprises.” Instead of musing calmly on the philosophical implications of aging, the writer found herself spending most of her energy battling for her health.
Coping with constant pain and increasing frailty, Sarton fears that the end is not far off. The story of what she calls the “last laps of a long-distance runner,” this yearlong journal addresses such familiar Sarton topics as her beloved garden, the harshness of Maine winters, and the friendships and intimate relationships that have nurtured and sustained her. She settles some old literary scores and paints a generous portrait of Virginia Woolf, who often shared tea with Sarton during the late 1930s. When illness saps Sarton’s ability to type, she dictates into recorders and has the tapes transcribed by devoted assistants. In spite of the loss of independence and the fear that she will never fully recover, she does her best to soldier on, taking pleasure in small things like a good meal; her cat, Pierrot, who loves the rain; and being able to sleep through the night. An enduring inspiration to millions of women, Sarton even finds the courage to achieve again.