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Jenny Lisk
Future Widow
Jenny Lisk, author

Adult; Memoir; (Market)

When her forty-three-year-old husband is diagnosed with inoperable brain cancer, Jenny Lisk is thrust into the role of caregiver. In Future Widow, she goes behind the scenes of her tumultuous and heartbreaking journey, and asks: Do I have what it takes to help my young family survive my husband’s terminal illness?
A polished heartbreaker touched with wit and insight, the debut from Lisk, the host of the Widowed Parent podcast, recounts the harrowing months after the discovery of her husband Dennis’ brain tumor – and then how, after the funeral, how Lisk and the couple’s two children have found their way forward. A grim diagnosis found the Lisks facing surgery, frequent ER visits, radiation, and the side effect of “cognitive confusion,” which Lisk likens, in one of the book’s many piercingly frank moments, to making her feel as if she lost her husband twice, once eight months before his actual death. All through the ordeal, Lisk, feeling that she wore an “FW” (“Future Widow”) like Hester Prynne’s scarlet A, strived to find the healthiest way to guide their children through the traumatic experience, to connect with Dennis (Mariners baseball proved invaluable), and to manage family affairs.

Key passages come from Lisk’s public posts updating friends and family on Dennis’ condition. Fascinatingly, Lisk often follows these with accounts disclosing what she left out and what she wasn’t yet ready to face. In crisp, inviting prose, Lisk finds surges of feeling in sharply rendered moments, such as the day she told the kids that their father likely would not survive. “Is he going to live to see me graduate?” asks her eight year old daughter. Then: “Will he live until Christmas?”

Lisk has taken up blogging and journaling, and she’s adept at short, essasyistic considerations of behavior and feeling. One incisive passage address the options a grieving person has when asked “How are you?”; another mines persuasive insight from Kenny Rogers’ “The Gambler.” Her short chapters and reliance on public posts means the book works better as a collection of glimpses and thoughts than as a narrative, but those glimpses are moving and those thoughts certain to buoy anyone experiencing (or facing the likelihood) of grief.

Takeaway: This incisive memoir of the death of a husband faces grief with purpose and love.

Great for fans of: Kelly Corrigan’s The Middle Place, Nina Riggs’s The Bright Hour.

Production grades
Cover: A-
Design and typography: A
Illustrations: N/A
Editing: A-
Marketing copy: A

Allison Gilbert, author of Passed and Present and Parentless Parents

“From the moment Jenny Lisk’s husband was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer, she knew her life would undergo a tectonic shift. In Future Widow, she reveals how she navigated the often conflicting priorities of Wife and Mother and she reflects on what she might have done differently, especially if she’d known the distinctive ways children grieve and ultimately heal. Lisk’s honesty is both compelling and instructive.”

BJ Miller, MD, Hospice & Palliative Medicine Physician, Author, and Founder of M

“Here is a book we need: a real look into what it means to be a
caregiver. By sharing her family’s journey, Jenny Lisk has given us both a poignant memoir as well as a de facto guide for the otherwise uncharted waters of caring for a loved one through illness and the healthcare system. Taking us stepwise from the time of her husband’s diagnosis through his wrenching and inevitable death, all while raising two kids, Jenny gives us an invaluable peek into both the practicalities and the emotional mettle such a travail can summon in a person.”

Gina Warner, Founder, Badass Women’s Book Club

“It’s been said that one person’s survival story becomes another person’s survival guide. With Future Widow Jenny Lisk has written that and so much more. This isn’t just a story of surviving—it’s also a story of thriving.”

Julie Lythcott-Haims, New York Times bestselling author of How to Raise an Adult

“Nobody wants to be a future widow or widower. But when that inevitability looms, you want a trusted guide to hold your hand. Jenny Lisk’s debut memoir is just that. You get her reports from the front lines which teach you the nitty gritty of caring for your partner, your kids, and maybe even yourself as things get tougher. You get her reflection years hence on what was really going on in those moments, and important lessons learned. Thanks to Lisk, you learn that what you are going through is normal, that you will survive it, and that you are not alone. Frank, tender, real, and ultimately optimistic, Future Widow is the ultimate gift for someone going through the unthinkable.”

Justin Yopp, PhD, Psycho-Oncologist, author of The Group: Seven Widowed Fathers

“In her gripping personal account of caring for her terminally ill husband, Jenny Lisk illustrates through her lived experience how to maintain hope and, at the same time, prepare for an unwanted future.  Future Widow is a testament to existing in the present while anticipating the future, being graceful with ourselves when we fall short, and celebrating small victories along the way.”

Leslie Gray Streeter, author of Black Widow: A Sad/Funny Journey Through Grief f

“Wow. Jenny Lisk writes, with honesty and even a wearying sense of humor, about how to live one life as you know that it is ending, in preparation for this new, unwanted future you would, with all your soul, ask to avoid. Her vivid, human recounting of trying to be a loving partner to her dying husband, even as her heart breaks, is riveting, real and all too relatable, the kind of stuff you tell your friend in a late-night call when no one can hear you cry. Stunning.”

Mary Robinson, MA, CT, CNN Hero and Founder and Executive Director, Imagine, A C

“A profoundly moving memoir and resource, this book provides a guide for future or current widows and widowers who are parenting grieving children. Jenny Lisk gives an unflinching account of caregiving for her dying husband while raising her young children. I wish my mother had this book in 1974, after losing my dad to cancer when I was a teenager.”