I knew that Whitley Strieber and his wife, Anne, were working on a book together that involved her near-death experience in 2004 from a brain bleed. When I received an email the other day that the book was now available as an ebook from Crossroad Press, I immediately downloaded it.
Miraculous Journey is a miraculous read. There are chapters in this book that brought me to tears, that made me laugh out loud, that prompted me to close down my iPad and take a long walk to simply appreciate my own life and surroundings.
I enjoyed the structure – alternating chapters by Anne and Whitley. You get both sides of the story –of her illness, their marriage, their creative partnership, of who they are as partners, but also of who they are as individuals. It’s a memoir in the best sense of the word. It tackles the BIG questions – what is the nature of reality? What is death? Does consciousness survive? Are our lives predestined? Where does free will enter the picture?
Honesty and raw emotion run throughout this book. Yet, there is never a point where any of it descends into self-pity or victimization or “Oh poor me.” If anything, it’s the complete opposite, a kind of victory call, a challenge, a gauntlet hurled at our collective feet that asks: Who are we? As a species? A collective? As individuals? Where do we fit in the grander scheme of things?
Anne writes movingly of living in Whitley’s shadow, of his encounter experiences and their repercussions for her when Communion was published. And he writes movingly of how he could never have written anything without her. I, as a writer married to a writer, understand this dynamic. Your partner is your first editor, your first reader, your first critic. If he or she dislikes what you have written, you hope they will be honest with you about that, but despair when you hear the words, This doesn’t work. And you are beside yourself with joy when your partner says, Wow, I love it.
As writers who have followed Strieber’s career since we first ran across Communion more than 25 years ago, Rob and I have admired his steadfast belief that he, an ordinary man, experienced something so extraordinary that it altered the trajectory of his life. He was reviled and ridiculed after Communion was published and skeptics had a field day. Ha-ha, this silly man… But he kept moving forward – and so did Anne.
In Miraculous Journey, we find out that Anne had a difficult childhood. Well, difficult may not be the right adjective. Nightmare is better. Her mother committed suicide when she was seven. Her father remarried and she, the stepdaughter, was the handmaid, the servant who was emotionally abused, beaten down, and ultimately driven from the home.
In a sense, when she and Whitley met, destiny seemed to become part of the equation – yet they each had the free will to bow out and look elsewhere. But that isn’t what happened. They got married, had a son, settled in to a creative partnership.
Now Anne has a brain tumor.
This book works on so many levels- collectively, personally- that I am left almost speechless. In the final chapter, Whitley writes:
A marriage as close and deep and happy as ours is a truly wonderful blessing, but facing being the one left behind is, I suspect, in many ways as hard as the one who must move on. I do hope that if she is to go to her dying, she finds beyond the veil love even better than what I have been able to give her, an embrace absolute with joy…
This book is one to savor – and remember, always.