AfterImage: A Brokenhearted Memoir of a Charmed Life

Image of AfterImage: A Brokenhearted Memoir Of A Charmed Life
Release Date: 
May 3, 2011
Reviewed by: 

There are certain passages in Carla Malden’s memoir, Afterimage, where the reader might have difficulty turning the page because of the tears falling onto the heartbreaking words.

Reader be warned: This is a sad book. But there is a need for sad books. They remind us of real lives, true love, and heartache, but most important, that at the end of the day, grieving people can still smile.

Yes, this is yet another book about losing a husband too soon and too young, but Afterimage clearly not your mother’s widowhood.

Afterimage is a love letter written beautifully by Carla Malden, daughter of the Academy Award-winning actor, Karl Malden, to her late husband Laurence Starkman—and at times it’s almost too painful to read the love between the lines.

But keep reading.

The couple started courting in high school and just kept on dating each other, even while they were married; somehow they also managed to work side-by-side writing and creating screenplays for movies and television.

“We were one another’s best friend. We got each other in a way that we both knew no one else would ever would or could. Soul mates, they call it. But ultimately, the thing is, we loved each other. Always had, always would. We were stuck with each other for what would certainly be the rest of our long lives. Until February 28, 2006. And then the clock started ticking.”

Afterimage is about cancer sneaking in and stealing away a life. This is Ms. Malden’s very personal and intense account of how she coped with her husband’s 11-month battle with colon cancer and his untimely death. Living without her husband wasn’t even on the radar for her. She couldn’t bear to think that her husband would never see their only child, Cami, graduate from college, marry, and start a family of her own. As for Laurence, he wasn’t about to go gently into that good night!

The author takes the reader through the painful diagnosis and surgery. She shares her insights on the treatment and then the return of the cancer that eventually claimed the love of her life.

There is a reason for books such as Afterimage. Yes, people all over the world die from cancer. Yes, people lose family members they love every day, but not everyone can write about it in such a compelling manner. It’s good to know that life does go on—as trite as that often sounds. In fact, it’s important to learn how to be able to go on living.

“I will say it right now, from the start, that the most I will be able to offer is this: for some inexplicable reason—at once miraculous and diabolical—the heart keeps beating even when it’s irreparably broken.”

There is much to learn about love and loss in Ms. Malden’s gut-wrenching memoir. But know this: The tears will flow, but your heart will soar when you come to the end.