WITH THE HOLIDAYS fully upon us, I wanted to finish reading It Rains in February and get my review written before being swallowed up in the festivities. Here it is.
What is love? Is it the warm fuzzies we feel while embracing our husband of 30 years under a moonlit sky? Is it opening a small, exquisitely wrapped package to find a diamond of commitment?
It Rains In February: A Wife's Memoir of Love and Loss, written by Leila Summers answers this question without even trying. It's the true-life account of one woman's struggle to help her mentally ill husband.
Set in exotic South Africa, Leila and Stuart meet, fall headlong in love, get married and have two daughters. But behind Stuart's artistic, somewhat eccentric demeanor lies a skewed view of reality, likely stemming from a chemical imbalance or personality disorder. Once he lays eyes on cinnamon-skinned Amanda, his affection for his wife takes a backseat to his unrequited obsession.
Perhaps Amanda is flattered, even titillated by handsome Stuart's flirtations, we don't really know, but she doesn't leave her husband for him. And despite Leila's numerous urgings Stuart refuses to resume first place in her life. He continues in decline, ultimately taking his own life.
Leila is a gifted writer. The book is a poignantly candid love letter written to deceased Stuart, detailing the events and emotional difficulties during the months and years of their relationship. Despite the enormous stress of trying to keep Stuart from fulfilling his own demise, Leila's unconditional love never wavers. To me, this is the take-home message.
I can't help but contrast the long-suffering devotion Leila exhibited for her husband in a far from ideal marriage to many of today's marriages that quickly dissolve when things take a turn for the worse. Leila constantly reassures Stuart of her love for him and tries desperately to get him to seek psychiatric help. She writes honestly about being pulled in different directions, caring for their daughters and trying to make a life for herself. Despite the worst possible outcome, Leila survives and ultimately thrives.
This not a feel-good read. To those of us who have a need to understand humanity and all its frailties, however, this book will enlighten.