By Margaret Overton. Bloomsbury. 240 pages $24
Reviewed by Anne Shaver
ANNE SHAVER is a writer and graphic designer in Roanoke.
After two decades married to a man who barely spoke to her, Margaret Overton finally decides to move out after her teenage daughter finds an apartment for her to rent.
“Why hadn’t I left him when I found an article of women’s clothing in the backseat of my car ten years earlier? I guess I wasn’t ready,” Margaret writes in her memoir, “Good in a Crisis.”
In the beginning chapters of the memoir, Margaret’s personal life is in a state of inertia. As an anesthesiologist, she had been accustomed to taking action in her professional life. But when she left her practice to attend graduate school and spend more time with her young daughter, she slowly became complacent.
After her separation, Margaret joins an online dating service and assumes she’ll quickly meet a new husband and pick up where her life left off.
Of course, it doesn’t happen that way. Date after strange date, Margaret patiently waits for her next husband to appear. And then her life takes another twist: Margaret is diagnosed with a brain aneurysm. She survives the aneurysm — twice — and then survives a stroke and a close call with a flying golf ball.
“The evidence was conclusive. I was not going to die anytime soon,” Margaret writes. “There’s a certain freedom that accompanies this conclusion. Not the good kind of freedom, but the kind that makes an already crazy person seriously nuts. I could do whatever I wanted. Nothing would touch me.”
Margaret finally begins living. She returns to her work as a full-time anesthesiologist. She continues dating. She deals with date rape and with the death of one of her best friends. She meets a few men who she thinks have long-term potential, but the relationships do not work out. She learns that her grown daughters can be sources of support even as she continues in her role as their mother. She confronts her despair and begins to pray.
Margaret realizes that she’s lucky — with two daughters and many friends, she is surrounded by love. She learns that she can be happy no matter how bad things seem to be. And she replaces her whirlwind schedule of dates with writing, noting that she still hopes she will find love again through friendship.
“Good in a Crisis” is a reminder that life can change in an instant, and that no matter how horrible the circumstances may seem, we can almost always adapt.