- Title: Banged Up Heart: Dancing with Love and Loss
- Author: Shirley Melis
- Genre: Memoir / Non Fiction
- Length: 300 pages
- Publisher: Terra Nova Books
- Publication Date: February 14, 2017
Banged-Up Heart is an intimate and clear-eyed account of finding love late and losing it early—and of the strength it takes to fall deeply in love a second time, be forced to relinquish that love too soon, and yet choose to love again.
When her husband of thirty years dies suddenly, Shirley Melis is convinced she will never find another man like Joe. Then she meets John, a younger man who tells her during their first conversation that he has lived for many years with a rare but manageable cancer. She is swept off her feet in a whirlwind courtship, and within months, made brave by the early death of a friend’s husband, she asks him to marry her! What follows is a year-long odyssey of travel and a growing erotic and creative partnership— until a mysterious bump on John’s forehead proves to be one of several tumors in his brain and spine.
The nine months that follow are filled with a life-threatening infection, three brain surgeries, radiation, and chemotherapy. Two years and one week after their wedding, John dies at the age of fifty-nine. More than just a love story or a memoir of mourning, Banged-Up Heart comes down solidly on the side of life. It takes you deep inside an ordinary woman, her deeply felt grief butting up against her desire for more than companionship: passion, sexual fulfillment, and self-realization. It bears eloquent witness to the wild trust it takes to fall madly in love and risk profound loss—a second time. Ultimately, it shows that it is possible to dance with a banged-up heart.
About the Author
Shirley Melis is a longtime business writer, travel writer, and newspaper columnist who traveled the world interviewing everyone from busboys to heads of international organizations before launching a career in public relations in Washington, D.C. With Banged-Up Heart, she now takes her writing in a new direction, delving deeply into her own personal story of finding love late, losing it early, and discovering the strength to choose to love again. It is a fascinating odyssey, a journey both creative and erotic as Shirley and John work lovingly together to blend their dreams—until a mysterious bump on his forehead starts them on a tragic struggle against the dark hand of fate.
A graduate of Vassar, Shirley Melis has created an intimate memoir bearing eloquent witness to the kind of wild trust that can grow in the heart of an ordinary woman thrust into circumstances that few others must face. Now retired, she lives in Galisteo, New Mexico.
Contact The Author
Blogger Question Grab Bag
Why did you choose this title, Banged-Up Heart, for your book?
Faced with the need for a title in order to promote my book at a college reunion, I was clueless. Months earlier, I’d discarded a working title, Love + Loss x Two, because I’d narrowed my focus to my recent love and loss. Hoping for an epiphany, I hunkered down with the last several chapters, which I was still revising. I would be discussing one, possibly more, of these with my editor in a few days. In one chapter, my attention riveted on the prose by writer Anne Lamont that had been read by the Rev. Kim Beach at John’s memorial service. It spoke to me, particularly the last line: “And you come through, and you learn to dance with the banged-up heart.” That’s it! I thought. Banged-up heart captures the essence of my story coupled with the fact that I came through and learned how to dance with a banged-up heart.
Do you have any unique or quirky writing habits?
I use up a lot of yellow lined tablets, especially when I’m expressing deeply emotional feelings or reflecting on past experiences from where I am now. And I have to have the right ballpoint pen. I’m partial to freebies I pick up at the bank from time to time.
Where is your favorite place to write? What does your ideal writing space look like?
My favorite place to write is in my office, sitting in my red leather Stressless chair with a yellow lined tablet and ballpoint pen in hand or at my desk in front of my desktop computer screen.
My ideal writing space looks like this: a room with windows on three walls and near-floor-to-ceiling bookcases on parts of two; in front of the bookcases is a red leather chair with an ottoman; opposite the red chair, on the far wall is a cabinet on top of which is The Random House Dictionary of the English Language opened up and lighted by a small Verilux reading lamp. In front of one window is a desk with a large desk-top computer monitor, a Verilux reading lamp, phone, calendar and an overflowing in-box of papers. The desk chair is streamlined with gray mesh that offers great back support. On either side of the desk are cabinets and files. Along another wall is a day bed and a treadmill. Near the red chair, under one set of windows is a trunk filled with writings by my first husband. On this flat-topped trunk are stacks of books, mostly read, that I don’t seem to have room for in the bookcases.
What was the hardest part of writing this book?
The hardest part was getting to my inner (non-visible) story, guided by questions (asked by my editor) that took me deep inside, into intense emotional places; also, facing truths about myself and having the courage to put them on paper.
What did you enjoy most about writing this book?
The whole process: using my original sources to put everything down to start with and then taking a lot of it out when going after my inner story, enhanced with reflection, and learning the craft of fiction writing to make my memoir come alive.
In addition to the responses for Writers Pay It Forward readers about choosing a title for her book, Shirley actually wrote more about it: