You might not immediately recognize the name Jason B. Rosenthal but chances are you know his story.
On March 5, 2017, the New York Times published a Modern Love essay by Jason’s wife, Amy Krouse Rosenthal, that was eventually read by more than 5 million people. Titled “You May Want to Marry My Husband,” it was a moving profile of the man she’d been happily, joyously married to for 26 years. Deathly ill with ovarian cancer, she wrote the essay as both a love letter to her husband and as an affirmation that he should marry again.
A week after it was published, she died.
“My Wife Said You May Want to Marry Me” is Jason’s story about their life together and his life since her death. The two met on a blind date arranged by her father’s best friend. Pretty early on, it seemed clear to both that they were the dictionary definition of soul mates.
They had much in common, including a love of dining in with friends, dining out, dancing and travel. He learned to cook for her (she arranged the lessons) and she pushed him to rediscover his love of painting (and arranged for lessons). They raised three kids and lived a life of symphony-level harmony, he as a personal injury lawyer, she as an author of children’s books.
“I know I made this marriage sound like a fantasy,” he writes without apology. But, as we all know, the fantasy ended. On a trip to a book festival in Washington, Amy began experiencing pain on her right side. Jason picked her up at the airport and drove her to an emergency room, trying to reassure her “it was probably appendicitis.” But it was not.
She underwent treatment. There was a brief remission, but the disease advanced. Typically, the Rosenthals were honest with each other: “Amy and I had conversations about the end of life, parenting our children and carrying on this life without her.”
Toward the end, he opted for home hospice — a brave decision. She had some wounds that required special care, but to Jason it was a no-brainer.
And then the end came and it was time for grief, grief intensified two months later by the death of Jason’s father. Wisely, Jason resists the impulse for melodramatic prose. His writing is simple, straightforward and perfect for this book.
Yes, “My Wife” is genuinely heartbreaking. But it is also heartwarming and, perhaps in an odd way, positive. There are people who go their entire lives without the kind of relationship Amy and Jason had. I’m certain they had no regrets. This is the first time I actually believed love means never having to say you’re sorry.
With the support of his family and friends, Jason began to recover. He received hundreds of sympathetic letters from people who had suffered similar losses. And, yes, there were marriage proposals, including one from a woman who wrote:
“I will marry you when you are ready, provided you permanently stop drinking. No other conditions. Take your time. I promise to outlive you.”
He has started dating again, “a testament,” he feels, “to the beautiful years I’d had with Amy.”
And so is this book.
Curt Schleier is an EMT and book critic in New Jersey.
My Wife Said You May Want to Marry Me
By: Jason B. Rosenthal.
Publisher: Harper, 256 pages, $26.99.