Losing the Garden: The Story of a Marriage

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9781593760489: Losing the Garden: The Story of a Marriage

In 1971 Laura and Guy Waterman decided to homestead in a cabin in the mountains of Vermont. For nearly three decades they created a deliberate life using no running water or electricity. It was an extreme that most of us can only imagine sustaining for a week or two.

The end of their marriage came on a frigid day, February 6, 2000 when Guy climbed to the summit of Mount Lafayette in New Hampshire’s White Mountains and sat down among the rocks to die. Losing the Garden is the memoir of a woman who was compelled to ask herself "How could I support my husband's plan to commit suicide?" It is an intimate examination of dark family histories and a marriage that tried to transcend them.

Laura’s father was the pre-eminent scholar of Emily Dickinson, Thomas H. Johnson, whose brilliance was muddied by alcoholism. Guy Waterman lost two sons (one son was a subject of Jon Krakauer’s bestselling book Into the Wild). Finally, Laura Waterman comes to terms with her husband’s long depression and his complex nature. Her awakening and affirmation of life after loss is a love story, a portrait of an intense and unusual marriage.

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From Publishers Weekly:

On February 6, 2000, naturalist and mountaineer Guy Waterman kissed his wife of nearly 30 years good-bye and left to go die on a snow-covered New Hampshire mountain. It was the defining moment of the Watermans' complex marriage and the culmination of years of Guy's depression. Waterman's memoir is a paean to her husband, a deconstruction of their life together and a reconstruction of her life without him--and yet it never succeeds in making Guy likable. The two met and married in 1971. Drawn to the back-to-the-land movement, they embarked on a life of homesteading. For almost three decades, they lived in Vermont without running water, electricity or telephone. Waterman writes, "This was a life that embraced an extreme," and indeed, many will see the manner in which the Watermans lived, on less than $3,000 a year, lacking health insurance or other amenities, as unnecessarily harsh. Waterman's narrative moves somewhat disjointedly between her own life growing up and the various lives Guy led. It frequently addresses Waterman's conflict in giving herself over to Guy, who, a decade her senior, seems to have been emotionally rent even before they married. This sad, compelling narrative is evocative when discussing life in the wilderness, but less clear when traversing the terrain of the Watermans' marriage and the repercussions of Guy's depression and suicide.
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