The Sea is Quiet Tonight: A Mem­oir

This is a grip­ping story of a man’s strug­gle to sur­vive AIDS, and a touch­ing mem­oir about a re­la­tion­ship that ended too soon.

Foreword Reviews - - Reviews Adult Nonfiction - JEFF FLEISCHER

Michael H Ward Querelle Press Soft­cover $19.99 (204pp) 978-0-9967103-3-6

In the early 1980s, when AIDS was still a new and mis­un­der­stood threat, Michael Ward’s part­ner, Mark Hal­ber­stadt, con­tracted the dis­ease. Ward’s mem­oir The Sea is Quiet Tonight is the mem­o­rable and emo­tion­ally af­fect­ing story of that time, chart­ing how he met and fell in love with Mark, and how that love sur­vived through­out Mark’s di­ag­no­sis and death.

Ward wisely spends a good quar­ter of the book on the days be­fore AIDS was even on his radar. In his late thir­ties, he met Mark dur­ing a trip to Fire Is­land. Read­ers get to know Mike and Mark through their sail­ing ad­ven­tures, the meet­ing of fam­ily mem­bers, and as they nav­i­gate their life to­gether in Boston.

Ward writes about the dif­fi­cul­ties of be­gin­ning a re­la­tion­ship while near­ing mid­dle age, and the chal­lenges of liv­ing as a gay man in a less-than-ac­cept­ing so­ci­ety. He in­tro­duces the threat of the dis­ease grad­u­ally, as he and Mark read or hear news re­ports of a mys­te­ri­ous ill­ness killing gay men in New York, and as friends of theirs be­come un­ex­pect­edly sick. They wait for the in­evitable but are still un­pre­pared for Mark’s di­ag­no­sis.

Ward has a knack for scene set­ting. He uses mi­nor de­tails to evoke the era, and each player’s di­a­logue is dis­tinct and re­lat­able. He also cap­tures the early enigma of AIDS: how lit­tle doc­tors knew about treat­ment, and how scary it was for gay men, who might or might not have con­tracted it. He de­scribes Mark’s treat­ment and con­di­tion in de­tail, plac­ing read­ers in the hos­pi­tal through ev­ery un­clear test and life-or-death de­ci­sion. The book ben­e­fits from the im­me­di­acy of the writ­ing, as Ward lets the story play out as it hap­pened rather than tak­ing a look­ing-back per­spec­tive.

The Sea is Quiet Tonight serves as an im­por­tant re­minder of what AIDS rep­re­sented in its early days. It is a grip­ping story of a man’s strug­gle to sur­vive the dis­ease, and a touch­ing mem­oir about a re­la­tion­ship that ended too soon.

Ward writes about the dif­fi­cul­ties of be­gin­ning a re­la­tion­ship while near­ing mid­dle age, and the chal­lenges of liv­ing as a gay man in a less-than-ac­cept­ing so­ci­ety. He in­tro­duces the threat of AIDS grad­u­ally, as he and Mark read or hear news re­ports of a mys­te­ri­ous ill­ness killing gay men in New York, and as friends of theirs be­come un­ex­pect­edly sick.

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