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A Wind from the East

More than thirty years ago, Terry Dartnall turned up in author Wendy Dartnall’s life holding a bottle of cheap port. He had looked around the door of a friend’s living room, apologising for his lateness, and she felt something happen to time. Love at first sight was something Wendy had only heard about until then.

In A Wind from the East, Wendy shares an account of their life together. Alternating between their love story are letters she wrote to Terry when he was dying and they could no longer converse; they had always talked about everything together. However, despite their deep love and commitment to each other, their marriage had not been without problems.

After Terry dies, Wendy tells how she hears him and feels his presence. She continues writing to him, and along with the natural grieving process she comes to new understandings. She discovers that an honest, loving relationship with the self is fundamental to experiencing a happy life. Losing the love of her life reveals the eternal nature of human relationships. She concludes that physical death brings change, but it need not be the end of our connection to loved ones. We are always evolving, on both sides of life. Death is not the end of our soul’s evolution.

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A Wind From the East

By Wendy Dartnall
Balboa Press 2016-03-29

 

Wendy Dartnall’s poetic memoir of love and loss is the complete opposite of the glib self help book. It offers no 12-step process, no mantras, no self-revealing boxes to tick. Instead, this very personal story contains a gentle and redemptive wisdom that will walk hand in hand with anyone who has known grief.

It’s a cruel irony that one pays the price for a great love in an equal measure of sorrow. This price is magnified for Wendy just at the time when she and her husband Terry reach the years that offer the most fulfilment. Both have retired, they have found their dream home, ‘Summerfield,’ a beautiful and spacious mansion on a high hill with spectacular views over rural Brookfield. Both have had work published and are now ready to concentrate on their writing. The trials and tribulations of step-parenting have been resolved. Their blended family of adult children will be welcome visitors. ‘Summerfield’ promises new, idyllic beginnings.

Nothing could have been more cruel or unexpected at this moment than the results of Terry’s routine blood test. A diagnosis of pancreatic cancer, dealt a death sentence that was only briefly put on hold by a series of medical interventions that failed to give him extra time and only led to a series of ghastly complications.

With their family home sold, there was no option but to complete the move to ‘Summerfield’ and Wendy packed and organised between vigils at the hospital. The stress of holding herself together on two fronts was enormous.

Terry is released from hospital to die in his new home. As he slips into a deeper and deeper state of drugged confusion, Wendy is already missing the man she knew. Her daughter, Abbie, offers advice. “Write to him, Mum,” she says, and Wendy begins to write the longest love letter of her life.

It begins with pure pain, the agony of what is unstoppable. But then the memories of their life together take over. Along the way an amazing honesty finds its way into this one-way dialogue. Terry, the philosophy lecturer, scholar, sceptic, poet and contrarian, had not been an easy man to live with. Diagnosed as bi-polar, his dark moods could be emotionally aggressive, accusatory, blaming and demanding. In the shadow of his vital personality Wendy had bent like a willow in the wind. At the same time a canny reader will intuit that she was the rock that kept him as stable as he could be.

After his death the love letter continues but with new insights. Sometimes she comes across hidden scraps of his poetry that read like diatribes against her; unwanted memories of his irrational anger surface and she fights to reconcile the good times with the bad. The writing has a bravery that makes the reader gasp with suspense. Where will this unravelling take her? Her courage pays off because she comes to an understanding of Terry’s struggle with his inner demons and the way in which he projected his angst onto others. In the final analysis, the love and commitment that existed between them remain untouched.

Even after death Terry refuses to go away. She feels his presence, a benign presence now, since the demons died with the physical Terry. His physical absence hurts but offers a challenge she responds to, tentatively at first and then with increasing energy. It has been a long journey, this heavy time of grief. She has walked through it step by painful step. She has walked through it alone, and this is the key to her survival because, perhaps for the first time in her life, she steps out along her own path and instead of struggling to understand Terry, begins on the exciting journey of discovering herself.

 

Sue Gough

Author/Journalist

 


 

Dear Wendy, I wonder if you could post this review of your book which I very much enjoyed:

A friend of mine has written an uplifting memoir of her marriage and life woven into the story of her husband’s death from pancreatic cancer.

Both originally of English extraction, now living in Australia, the book skilfully traces their marriage after previous relationships, and honestly but gradually peels back the layers of their complex histories and character traits, warts and all, in numerous locations as they hike around the world, until her husband Terry, a retired philosophy professor discovers he has incurable cancer and only months to live.

It is an honest, brave, and sometimes emotionally raw examination of all the main protagonists with an authentic but unexpected climax.

I highly recommend this skilful and honest portrait of life, death, and everything in between by a local author.

 

Dr Melissa Buttini, Brisbane

 


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