Review: ‘Left on Tenth,’ a funny, poignant, magical memoir
“Left on Tenth: A Second Chance at Life,” by Delia Ephron (Little, Brown and Company)
After Delia Ephron’s husband died, she wrote a New York Times piece about the battle to get her internet service turned back on after Verizon disconnected it along with her late spouse’s landline.
The humorous op-ed about Ephron’s hellish encounter with the phone company drew plenty of responses, including a sympathetic email from a man she dated briefly in college more than a half century before.
Ephron’s late husband, Jerry, a writer like herself, had been her soulmate for more than three decades before he died in 2015 from cancer. Her correspondent, Peter, was a Jungian psychiatrist living in Northern California.
Widowed and both 72, Ephron and her new suitor quickly fall for each other over email, and then in person, as they embark on a late-life journey exploring love, friendship, illness and loss.
The funny, poignant and sometimes magical memoir is an open-eyed look at later life and what Ephron calls the left turns that can be perilous or wonderous.
One perilous turn was the death of Ephron’s dog, Honey, her last link to Jerry and their long marriage together.
But there’s also plenty of enchantment.
A wonderous turn came as Ephron and her new love watched a solar eclipse in an Oregon field, feeling like members of a cult as they join other people wearing special glasses to protect their eyes. They bought a pingpong table to make Ephron’s New York apartment truly theirs.
Facing a possibly fatal cancer changed the way Ephron saw things as she embraced her friendships, from the tall male hairdresser in Rastafarian braids, to a couple in Wales and the young women in California she calls her “friend-daughters.”
Ephron was the second of four girls born to screenwriters. Later a screenwriter, essayist, novelist and playwright herself, Ephron co-wrote the 1998 romantic comedy “You’ve Got Mail,” with her sister Nora. More recently, she published “Siracusa,” a 2017 New York Times bestselling novel about marriage, friendship and deceit.
By the time she met Peter, Ephron had long known she could get the disease that killed Nora in 2012. She got her diagnosis for acute myelogenous leukemia just four months after the couple’s first kiss and their bond immediately deepened.
Eventually, Ephron got a bone marrow transplant that gave her a new chance at life.
Once she recovered, Ephron marveled at her good luck.
Luck that her internet broke, that she wrote about it, that Peter read about it and he wrote to her.
Luck that she found the doctor she needed and got her diagnosis and her treatments at the right time.
Then finally what she considered a miraculous comeback from the brink. And get the chance to write again.