PRAISE FOR SHOULD I STILL WISH: A MEMOIR
“A well-written memoir is born of moxie, the will to probe deep into self, circumstance, and other. It also displays tact and lyricism, an authorial versatility whereby differing modes of narrative inquiry and reflection are put into play depending on one’s focus–death, trauma, grieving, love, marriage, or fatherhood. John W. Evans investigates all of these subjects in Should I Still Wish, and does so through shifting stylistic voices, at times poetic and despairing, at others paternal or romantic, and at still others baldly sentimental or fluently hopeful. Through it all resonates a steadfast honesty, a charge of truthfulness that grips readers and unites them with Evans’s fluctuating emotions.”–Nathaniel Meals, Mid-American Review
Should I Still Wish: A Memoir is a finalist for a Foreword Reviews Indies book prize.
Listen to John’s interview with Rebecca Lee Douglas on the Group Podcast, where he also reads from his books, and talks about the changing nature of a prolonged grief.
Should I Still Wish: A Memoir was selected by Poets and Writers magazine as a “new and noteworthy” title in the Page One feature of the January/February 2017 issue.
“…While numerous memoirs about reckoning with the loss of a loved one demonstrate the perils of attempting to circumvent grief, Evans’ self-study proves equally instructive in negotiating guilt. The author examined survivor’s guilt in his debut. Here, as Evans tries to come to terms with his new relationship with Cait, which led to their marriage and the birth of three sons, it seems he’s attempting to write himself into a place of forgiveness for having moved on. In a soliloquy to his young son, Evans clandestinely reveals, ‘I want you to know that I have been happy in my affection,’ and later goes on to admit, ‘part of what I mean to describe here is not grief at all, I think, but forgetting.’ Evans’s poignant, authentically disjointed account offers candid insight into the baffling interplay of love, loss, and the balm of memory.”–Kirkus
“Loss and recovery run through this moving memoir…As he finds the courage to start over and put aside doubt, guilt, and conflicting feelings at ‘the bright edge of memory,’ Evans delivers a poignant meditation on what it means to survive.”–Georgia Rowe, San Jose Mercury News
“The richness of his perceptions, his intelligence and his honesty are arresting. His probing of the relation between experience and history is kindred to Tim O’Brien’s, say. But most of all, this haunted and haunting memoir recalls Edward Lewis Wallant’s novel, The Pawnbroker (1962), the story of another widower’s grief, and one of its closing lines: ‘he took the pain of it, if not happily, like a martyr, at least willingly, like an heir.'”–DeWitt Henry, The Kenyon Review
“Imagine hands clasped in prayer, fingers intertwined and pointing every which way, forward and backward and both at the same time. That’s grief – and that’s what it’s like to read Should I Still Wish…author John W. Evans makes this tale circular and brief, swirling and perfectly capturing the shaky-ground feelings that lie alongside loss, deftly portraying the guilt that comes from healing-but-not-quite, and wondering if moving on is possible or if lingering is right. Yes, we eventually do get closure but it comes, like clasped fingers, in a melding of right and left, old life and new…Beautiful…Very Moving.”–Terri Schlichenmeyer, The Quad City Times
“While Wish is focused on his rebuilding a life, his sense of shame and loss is nearly palpable. A somber but hopeful love letter, Wishviews his young family’s shared joys with an eye toward the future.”–STANFORD magazine
“Grief is never easy to read about—it’s a bitter pill that sticks halfway in the throat—but Evans makes it palatable, dare I say delicious, with his remarkable prose and storytelling.”–David Abrams, Front Porch Books
“Should I Still Wish reads like a Greek tragedy with deep Peace Corps roots… the author uses dreams, memories and a series of compelling stories to describe the stages of grief, guilt, fear and hope he lived through on his way to a new life as he falls in love again as a young widower…highly recommend[ed] for anyone looking for a moving memoir of love’s recovery.”–Peace Corps Writers
“The intriguing paradox of love amid heartbreak pushes the narrative forward, leading to moments of poignant honesty. Evans’s emotional journey is candidly conveyed and affecting.”–The Missouri Review (blog)
“A profoundly moving memoir of love’s recovery. . . . The brilliance of this insightful book is in its honest articulation of great paradox—love can rise complete and uncompromised even as grief endures, and the human heart can belong simultaneously to both life and death, neither of which triumphs forever.”—Jonathan Johnson, author of Hannah and the Mountain: Notes toward a Wilderness Fatherhood
“The Polish Prince” (essay) was a finalist for the 2015 Editor’s Prize at the Missouri Review, published in the journal in Spring, 2016.
PRAISE FOR YOUNG WIDOWER: A MEMOIR and THE CONSOLATIONS: POEMS
Young Widower: A Memoir is the winner of a 2014 Foreword Reviews INDIEFAB Book of the Year Award.
The Consolations: Poems is the 2015 Peace Corps Writers Best Poetry Book.
Watch John’s 2015 TedX talk.
“Evans is one in a long line of messengers, from Lewis to Didion to Deraniyagala. And we need them: it is too easy to forget that what we have, we will lose — that brown bears come in many guises, and that we are all powerless in one way or another. But thanks to honest and sadly beautiful books like Young Widower: A Memoir, we are at the very least helpless together. We can’t go on, we’ll go on.”–Nicholas Montemarano, Los Angeles Review of Books
“Grief in all its nuanced complexity is explored in this devastatingly beautiful memoir of love and loss (Young Widower: A Memoir)…While the haunting account of the day Katie died is especially riveting, it is the unfolding and cathartic grieving process that underpins and elevates this heartbreaking tale.”–Margaret Flanagan, Booklist
“Heartbreakingly honest, authentically mature, Evans’s memoir is a testament to survival through loss and grief…Evans’s pages will garner deep empathy, particularly as the author works to find some measure of peace. Though the tragedy of Evans’s title is borne out, his memoir brims with maturity and authenticity, and it should find a ready readership with those who have lived through incredible loss. Young Widower: A Memoir is both a loving tribute to a cherished spouse and a testament to survival.”–Michelle Anne Schingler, ForeWord
“Though he vividly recounts the circumstances of Katie’s exceptional death, this is the author’s story, a memoir of grieving and consolations, of trying to define a young widower’s public face and private essence. [Young Widower: A Memoir] is an urgent, palpably emotional account of dealing with extreme grief.”–Kirkus
“A powerful memoir about grief, loss, and the natural world.”–Oxford Journals (ISLE)
“…[Young Widower] is anti-woe-is-me. The writing comes off as a serrating narrative but also a beacon searching out in deep space for that lone survivor, that “me” that went through the horror and its aftermath. The real protagonists are the questions, the bursts of euphoric understanding, and the calculating realist who estimates how many people to invite to the funeral even as he helps carry his wife’s body down the bloodstained mountain. All of these voices work to make this a captivating and multidimensional excursion into the experience of loss.”–Clinton Crockett Peters, Fourth Genre
“Evans presents grief as washing in and out in an illogical order, sequence, and level of intensity… The almost manic peregrinations of this polyglot poet and his new wife feel as if he is running away from the memory of his first wife but is unable to escape it. The grief follows him as in the Crowded House song “Weather With You”: Everywhere you go / always take the weather with you. The reader witnesses the poet coming to terms with his grief, not resolving it… Evans is highly literate, drawing material and allusions with equal ease from the Bible, the classics, pop culture, American poetry, Romanian poetry and American history. Theodore Roosevelt sits comfortably alongside Mickey Rourke in the movie The Wrestler and Paul’s Epistle to the Thessalonians… Evans honors and respects the memory of his first wife, acknowledges that memory, then walks away with love.”—Natasha Dennerstein, Fourteen Hills
“John Evans has written an unusual and superb memoir of mourning in the aftermath of a devastating death…Young Widower: A Memoir is atypical of the current genre in that there isn’t a smidgen of sentimentality or overblown emotionality in its introspective tone and pungent details. What is particularly brave in his narrative is that he never deifies Katie by virtue of her premature death…We follow Evans’s deliberate and, yes, courageous, efforts to find his way through the process of healing in order to reach some meaning in the horror he’s witnessed and the love that he’s lost…Young Widower: A Memoir is a fully realized treatise on trauma, death, and mourning — part psychology, part philosophy, part moral search — and one extraordinarily well done.”—Marnie Muller, Peace Corps Writers
“When I opened the book for the first time, I wasn’t fully prepared for John’s eloquence or how the story would be magnified when related in his own words…The world still requires participation though, even when it cannot be tamed, and yet for those times when life is bitter and unreasonable, there are stories like [Young Widower: A Memoir] – books that accept the ugliness of both death and survival and remind us to be grateful and angry and preciously alive.”–Maria Mankin, Books J’Adore
“…Above all, Young Widower: A Memoir is a relentless attempt to give oneself clarity regarding the sequence and length of the grieving process: to organize in writing what does not organize itself…In wave motion, Evans approaches the possibility of that fateful hike, as the reader discovers more details, though the author never sensationalizes the events or that day, which makes the corresponding pain almost unbearable for the reader…Sad, tragic and a great love letter to his wife.”–Buchpost (German)
Interview with Jody Smiling in The Rumpus.
Interview with Kelsey Ronan in Sycamore Review.
“A riveting, elegant read.”–Marilyn Dahl, Shelf Awareness
“Young Widower: A Memoir is a beautiful new book…splendid…”–Marion Roach, The Memoir Project
“Evans is not interested in bitterness or in drawing sinister landscapes. From the mountains of Romania to the streets of the American Midwest, he renders the physical world with a kind of reverence. Like Gilbert, Evans is interested in mystery and magnitude; he explores sorrow with openness, searching for meaning rather than resolution. The Consolations: Poems is a beautiful and exciting collection. Evans harnesses a great power of poetry: in the face of the unspeakable, he finds the words.”–Chloe Honum, On The Seawall
“Recounting the attack and its aftermath with raw honesty and detail, Evans shares a tale of love, marriage and redemption that will satisfy even those who insist on happy endings.”–STANFORD magazine