My new book “Midlife Solo” is now available.

Beth Kaplan logo

what fine friends I’ve got

Today I will shut up, for once, and highlight the work of my talented friends. This is a review from Canada’s literary magazine Quill and Quire of Wayson’s new memoir Not Yet,  scheduled for release in early April. I have watched this book incubate for at least two years, watched it be delivered slowly with much pain and exhiliration, so that holding the book in my hands as I did yesterday, and reading a good review as I did today, feels almost as much my own thrilling birthing as its author’s:

The new memoir by celebrated novelist Wayson Choy chronicles not one, but two near-death experiences. Employing a spare, restrained approach, Choy depicts a dramatic series of events through an unexpectedly tranquil filter, highlighting themes of family, home, and the fragility of growing old.

The book opens in 2001, when Choy is 62 years old. He’s wheezing as he attempts to lug two heavy suitcases up a tall staircase. It’s just allergies, he tells himself of his persistent, wracking cough. Within a few pages, Choy is flat on his back in a hospital bed, trembling and intubated, surrounded by medical technicians. It isn’t allergies, but a severe asthma attack punctuated by multiple cardiac events. And this won’t be the last time; his heart nearly fails him again several years later, at the book’s close.

Choy avoids tidy homilies or maudlin melodrama in favour of a matter-of-fact tone. This makes the images he chooses all the more vivid and delightful. The moment he’s first able to breathe again without a ventilator, he notices the bedside monitors beeping in time to his heaving gulps, “Ginger Rogers to [his] Fred Astaire.”

He adroitly captures the surreality of an extended hospital stay and rehabilitation, right down to the hallucinations. Subtle glints of humour – such as his description of an origami butterfly so poorly executed it resembles an ordinary envelope – keep the writing far from the sentimental or precious.

Along the way, Choy provides sufficient personal background for the reader to appreciate the significance of the faces that greet him when he first returns to consciousness. He also notes the ways in which his experience influenced his creative process, prompting him to rewrite his last novel, All That Matters.

Relearning how to speak, write, and walk does not inoculate the author from future risk. Choy demonstrates that self-awareness about the body and its dangers cannot save you from every peril. In lovely prose, he captures the beauty and imperfection of being human.

Reviewed by Shawn Syms (from the April 2009 issue)

Get your copy asap!


And here is an excerpt from an email sent by Patsy Ludwick, actress, writer, writing teacher and poet who now lives on Gabriola Island, B.C. and who has been my best friend since our first meeting in Nova Scotia in 1970. Patsy and I often correspond about writing, about the weather in downtown Toronto and rural Gabriola, about what we are feeling and wondering about today: 
The scientists have been studying “happiness” – which appears to be good for one’s health – and one study suggests that those who are “happy” have deliberately chosen that, often in the face of real obstacles. The Buddhists are big on that, too: it’s about a way of seeing things, with the attitude that life is extraordinarily precious. No matter what the weather.
Here’s an “elfchen” (an eleven-word poetic form: one word first line, two the second, three the third, four the fourth, and one at the end I wrote last year, though it seems to be holding true for this year as well):
and sunshine:
March contradicts itself.
Spring promises nothing but
And another little poem from old friend Nick, still recovering from prostate surgery:

And now I’m confessing
Oh what a blessing
each little breath is …

and I’ll add this thought,
what fine friends I’ve got,
such as beautiful Beth is.

With friends like these … how lucky can a girl be?



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

About Beth

I began keeping a journal at the age of nine. Nearly fifty years later, I started this online journal, sharing reflections, reviews, updates, and the occasional secret.

Some Blogs I Follow

Chris Walks
This blog evolves. It once was about travels. Now it’s a reason to be at the keyboard that I value.


Theresa Kishkan
Theresa Kishkan is a writer living on the Sechelt Peninsula on the west coast of Canada.


I walk on. With my feet, and in my mind as well.


Carrie Snyder
Wherever you’ve come from, wherever you’re going, consider this space a place for reflection and pause.


Juliet in Paris, Spain and Beyond
Juliet is a Canadian who’s lived for decades in Paris and writes about her travels and the many things that interest her.