| Book Reviews, Instagram

Our Last Blue Moon: Dance of Love

Martin Mitchell

Will it come like a change in the weather?
Will its greeting be courteous or rough?
Will it alter my life altogether?
O tell me the truth about love.
—W.H. Auden

I thought of these lines as I read the closing pages of Our Last Blue Moon, Kris O’Shee’s debut memoir from Watershed Lit Books. They came to mind because O’Shee, in under 200 pages, captures many of the complicated (and uncomplicated) truths of love: its exhilarating inception, its tender maturity, and, finally, the shattering grief of its physical end.

The romance between O’Shee and Alan Cheuse began in 1991 at the Djerassi Resident Artists Program in the Santa Cruz Mountains. O’Shee was the only dancer at the residency, which was mostly attended by visual artists and writers like Cheuse. He arrived late to the communal resident dinner and snagged the last open seat at the table, coincidentally across from O’Shee. Their mutual attraction was intense and immediate.

Cheuse was an acclaimed writer of novels, short stories, and nonfiction, as well as a longtime book reviewer for NPR’s All Things Considered. He was also a dedicated and popular teacher at George Mason University.

Cheuse’s profession is vital to Our Last Blue Moon. The book is O’Shee’s first published work, yet it shows few signs of the inexperience or timidness one may expect from a newly published author. She said recently in an interview that “Alan was my only writing teacher, though he didn’t know he was teaching me. I learned to write, I think, by reading his work — and being his first reader and editor — and also through reading other books….” O’Shee is perhaps selling herself short in this admission. Her prose is candid and unadorned, refreshingly intuitive, and she progresses from scene to scene with commanding grace and fluidity.

Her deep immersion in literature is evident, too, in her handling of the book’s deceptively simple narrative structure, which centers on four weeks in O’Shee’s life: the two impassioned weeks when she met Cheuse and the equally impassioned two weeks of their parting 24 years later, after his car accident on California’s Highway 17. The narrative toggles between the eager, early flirtation at the Djerassi Ranch and the grim, hallucinatory hours at Santa Clara Valley Hospital, where Cheuse lived out his final days.

The book’s intimacy is heightened by O’Shee’s descriptive prowess and her instinct for brushstrokes of detail. Take the moment when she first notices Cheuse’s eyes, the kind “that darken when exposed to sunlight.” Or the scene where she reveals the final words Cheuse ever read — page 333 of William T. Vollmann’s epic novel, The Dying Grass.

The poignancy of such moments elevates Our Last Blue Moon to something more than simply a journal of grief — it reveals the book to be an authentic accounting of fortitude and remembrance in the face of loss.

Even amid the reality of her life after the accident, O’Shee maintains an admirably clear-eyed perspective. Near the book’s end, O’Shee suggests that “closure” after such an event is not only impossible, but useless as well. She declares “I am never alone. I’m neither single nor a widow but a woman, still in love, carrying around this huge love everyday.” She suggests, in a way, that a good story never really ends.

Our Last Blue Moon is available for purchase now at the Stillhouse Press online store. Proceeds from Our Last Blue Moon will go to the Alan Cheuse International Writers Center at George Mason University, which supports international writers and translators and provides young American writers with travel fellowships in order to pursue international creative projects. 

Kris O’Shee

spent four decades as a modern dancer and choreographer in London, San Francisco, Texas, and Washington, D.C., among others. In the last two decades, O’Shee earned a certificate in massage therapy and a graduate degree in psychology. She currently has a private practice in psychotherapy in DC, where she resides. You can find Kris O’Shee and this book, which is her first, online.

Martin Mitchell

is the Managing Editor of Poetry Daily and the Events & Content Manager at The Cheuse Center. His writing has appeared in The Threepenny Review, The Raintown Review, Time Out New York, and elsewhere. He lives in Alexandria, Virginia.

Comments are closed.