THIS LOVELY LIFE by Vicki Forman
Vicki Forman’s life with her twins, Evan and Ellie, born 17 weeks early, isn’t lovely at all. Although she begged her doctors to “let my babies go” because she knew they had no chance to live normal lives, the doctors wouldn’t listen. California law mandated resuscitation. Four days later, Ellie died leaving Evan—and his family—to deal with his many disabilities: blindness, seizures, inability to walk or talk. Mourning Ellie’s death, Vicki and her family somehow learned to cope with Evan’s life, to love him for what he was, to try to help him be better.
Vicki’s “memoir” of parental vicissitudes with premature children, ironically called “super preemies” is wrenched with loss and triumphs and more loss. Even the alternative healing center in Arizona doesn’t really help Evan. Yet somehow he learns to walk painfully with a cane, to say a few words, to go to a special school. Somehow, Vicki learns to love him with an intensity that seems to exclude her husband Cliff and her daughter Josie. She dedicates this book to all that she has learned from Evan.
But life—and death—were not done with her. After Forman’s memoir won the Bakeless Prize, after Mariner Books was ready to publish it, Evan died suddenly just before his eighth birthday. In the epilogue where Forman shocks the reader by recounting Evan’s death, she wonders if his death symbolizes that he is through teaching her all he can about love and patience. The family is left at the end of the book where it was in the beginning. Just Vicki, Cliff, and Josie to pick up the pieces. And as Forman makes clear, they will go on together as part of Evan’s legacy.
As a result, Forman’s title remains a mystery. Was it Evan’s life that despite everything was “lovely”? Was it the strength Vicki and her family found together that made it “lovely”? I’m not sure but nonetheless, Forman’s story is well worth reading as a tale of finding inner strength no matter what happens.