May Sarton's sixty-sixth year, 1978-79, was a difficult time: a cherished relationship came to an end, she had a mastectomy, she fought against depression. How her friendships, her love of the natural world, and her growing audience of readers brought her back is this journal's story.
"Sarton's 'art of making exquisite distinctions' and her vulnerability as a human being are her timeless gifts to her readers". -- Library Journal
The novelist, poet, and domestic diarist begins her ten-month journal on "an acutely lonely Christmas week. . . starved for tenderness." Bleakly she ruminates the "disasters" of the past year: a particularly ego-damaging review of her latest novel, The Reckoning, in the New York Times, the loss of a love, and dim prospects for a new one. But though she recounts terrifying moments with her close friend Judy, who has lapsed into a piteous senility, Sarton keeps her current affair of the heart locked and private, On bleak but somehow bracing winter days in her York, Maine, home, Sarton admits that she has lost faith in herself as a woman and a writer. Then, as the year progresses, she struggles for perspective, and a multitude of happenings assuage the loneliness: plants in the morning light, a gallivanting dog, stimulating reading, dear friends, good food and good talk, a lecture tour as far forth as Berkeley. Even pain - Sarton has a mastectomy that summer - will, she hopes, drive out mental anguish. This is essentially, then, a chronicle of a slow recovery from depression, a kind of whistling in the dark as Sarton records her relentlessly busy life - which can cause all sorts of guilts and also drains psychic energy from writing. (She is struggling with a novella.) But recover she does, through a new understanding with her unnamed "lover" - and the reassurance via a PBS documentary profile, that "I do have value as a human being and as a writer." In a sense, this journal is self-indulgent. Sarton is too private a person to allow stringent, bare-bones self-analysis, so her meditations and dollops of advice seems rootless, bloodless, slightly flaccid: "Nothing that happens to us, even the most terrible shock, is unusable, and everything has somehow to be built into the fabric of the personality, just as food has to be built in." But her followers will find her tough resiliency appealing and touching. (Kirkus Reviews)