Delia Ephron is also a chronicler of her life, but one less inclined to focus on the dark side — even when the story is a tough one, as hers initially appears. A lifelong writer of screenplays, essays, novels (blessed and cursed to have followed on the heels of her sister Nora Ephron, with whom she collaborated on the quintessential ’90s romantic comedy You’ve Got Mail), Delia found the source material for her new work from the worst possible series of losses ... I read with a stab of recognition Delia Ephron’s descriptions of the early days after her husband’s death ... But Left on Tenth — though it opens with Jerry’s death — is less the story of a woman losing a husband than it is that of a woman falling in love again at age 72. Delia doesn’t forget her first husband along the way, any more than Peter forgets his first wife, and it is their love affair more than the grieving of their respective losses that propels the story ... They understand commitment. We cheer them on ... If I have an issue with the memoir, it arises from the same quality that makes Delia Ephron come across as a singularly likable and bighearted person. Every page contains fresh accounts of wonderful, kind acts by a long cast of characters — hat tips to her hairdresser, old friends visited in Wales, neighbors in their apartment building, the woman behind the counter at the bakery, the stem cell donor — whose names and stories I had a hard time keeping straight ... If there’s such a thing as a feel-good memoir, this is it.
As titles go, it’s an impressive combination of witty, sad and memorable — just like the book itself ... We can trust her not to romanticize life’s big moments. Monumental though they may be, they are often messy, confusing, and oddly timed — and Ephron is going to be straight with us about it ... Ephron is not sugarcoating this story, remember? Things get dark ... Breaking sentences and phrases into speaking rhythms, Ephron encourages us not to see her prose on the page so much as to hear a story told in her voice ... Ephron made it to the other side of her illness, a vantage point from which she could look back and craft her story with a perspective those writers didn’t live to have. But she also never loses sight of the fact that while a book’s ending might be considered happy or sad depending on where the plot stops, all of us human beings are headed for the same ending sooner or later ... Although death saturates this book, it is far from a downer. To the emphatic contrary, it is a joy. As much as Ephron honors the true depths of fear, sickness, and sorrow, she also celebrates with humor and awe the great fortune of small thrills ... That’s the singular, lovely magic of this particular memoir by this particular writer about this particular slice of her life. When she examines 'life and death in close focus, side by side,' she reminds us that darkness makes the light look even brighter.
In chapters that can be as terse as half a page, Left on Tenth chronicles a descent into the abyss and an arduous climb back up and out. Ms. Ephron writes with piercing acuity about her new identity—cancer patient—and its accoutrements ...It says everything good about Ms. Ephron that she has lots of friends, wonderful supportive friends. But since they are referred to only by their first names...they become a confusing tangle to the reader ... And charming though Delia’s and Peter’s email exchanges may be, we get a few too many of them in their entirety ... 'That is all I’ve aspired to,' Ms. Ephron notes close to the end of her book. 'True friend and good writer.' Done and done. Left on Tenth is the proof.