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Borrowed Time: An AIDS Memoir

4.3  ·  Rating Details ·  1,682 Ratings  ·  134 Reviews
This "tender and lyrical" memoir (New York Times Book Review) remains one of the most compelling documents of the AIDS era-"searing, shattering, ultimately hope inspiring account of a great love story" (San Francisco Examiner). A National Book Critics Circle Award finalist and the winner of the PEN Center West literary award.
Paperback, 352 pages
Published June 1st 1998 by A Harvest Book/Harcourt, Inc. (first published 1988)
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"What am I going to do without him?" I asked in a hollow voice, and Cope replied immediately, with great force and conviction. "Write about him, Paul," he said. "That's what you have to do."

It's a book about LIFE and LOVE, not about death, emotional lines full of overwhelming sadness and grief and painful lost and regret and beautiful lyric and heartbreaking tenderness and touching memories...and LOVE, REAL LOVE.

...we never talked about dying because we were fighting so hard to stay alive.

Nov 26, 2009 Ivan rated it it was amazing
I don't know how this book didn't win every award the publishing world has to offer. Quite simply, this one volume is the most emotionally devastating work I've ever read. I've read about hate crimes, political assassination and Nazi persecution, but none touch this. Several times I had to set the book down because I was no longer able to read through great, racking sobs and eyes nearly swollen shut. I grieved.

Paul Monette, author of the the award winning memoir "Becoming a Man: Half a Life Sto
Ije the Devourer of Books
People seem to think the 'war' against AIDS is over, done and dusted.

But it isn't.

We are not yet free.

All these years after Paul and Roger passed away the battle is still being fought in different places and in different ways. The war that Paul Monette and Roger Horwitz fought is far from over and their story is a reminder that we shouldn't give up because we still have a long way to go. One of the things that challenges me about this story is the way in which it has become in part my story, my
Oct 23, 2012 Terry rated it it was amazing
I loved anything Paul Monette wrote during his short lifetime, but Borrowed Time was so deeply personal, so painful, and so sadly mournful that I always come back to this one for a reread. As a nurse who cared for AIDS patients during the 80s and at the height of the experience,too many times I saw Paul's story in my patients and my friends. The chilling pages where Roger begins to become ill to the final pages of his death left me reminded of my own experiences with lost friends. Sadly, Paul Mo ...more
Mel Bossa
Apr 29, 2015 Mel Bossa rated it it was amazing
I'll never forget the two days I spent reading Paul and Roger's story.
Life beautiful. Love, even more so.
I cried a lot, but now I'm going to move on and try to celebrate the little victories.
I wish I could have read this book in 1999, when my mother was dying of leukemia. The similarities between AIDS and Leukemia--at least the kind she had--are staggering.
Some years leave a dent in the bark of your soul. 1999 was one of them.
To love is to stand a chance of losing.

I think of Paul Monette's r
K.D. Absolutely
Sep 13, 2012 K.D. Absolutely rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to K.D. by: 501 Must Read Books
Shelves: 501, memoirs
By far, the most memorable memoir that I've read this year, 2014.

It's about being gay in the early 80's when AIDS awareness was just starting. It's like being helpless and clueless amidst a medical catastrophe. Especially if you are part of the marginalized group and in the 80's even in America, some people still thought that being gay was a disorder or a disease and that AIDS was God's punishment to them.

I was in college during those years and being a medical technology student, we had to make
May 03, 2011 Colin rated it it was amazing
Perhaps the most poignant, soul-stirring, achingly beautiful piece of writing I have read. It is so humbling to realize that if I had been born twenty years earlier, I would probably have had to watch many friends and lovers pass away -- if, that is, I had survived myself. Monette's depiction of the ravages of HIV cuts straight to the soul. And more than a polemic account of the Reagan administration's criminal, abhorrent neglect (for that, of course, it would be hard if not impossible to outdo ...more
Jun 01, 2009 Amber rated it really liked it
Not a book for the faint of heart. This is a lyrical, heartbreaking and powerful look at one couple's battle and one half's eventual demise from AIDS as it was just coming into the national conscious. The amount of suffering and loss Paul and Roger experienced both personally and among friends and family during the early-mid 80s is astounding, especially when it's remembered that at the time, this was still a disease that was not acknowledged by the government.

My office was heavily involved wit
Jun 02, 2010 Sam rated it it was amazing
One of the best memoirs I've ever read.

It seems to be an easy thing for memoirists to descend into either whining, boasting, or self-righteousness. Paul Monette avoids any of these traps, and simply tells the truth with devestating clarity. He does not spare himself; his human frailty is on full view here, but he shows how his love for his friend redeems him, and makes it possible for him to rise above their difficulties.

Their personal story helps put the emergent AIDS crisis in perpective: Pa
Jun 18, 2007 Skip rated it it was amazing
For so many, the AIDS crisis and epidemic has become a footnote in gay history. Thank God, folks are living mostly normal lives today.

But what Monette's writing so eloquently reveals is the way the community fought, struggled and in the end – suffered.

What was also so beautiful was that this was as much a story about the incredible love between Paul and Roger....In fact, that may have been – at the core – its most central message.
Jan 05, 2011 Monkey rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a hard read. It's about a tough subject matter, and it's also now a book that is of a somewhat historical nature.

I loved it and found it touching and it was enlightening in that it really gives an accurate and detailed portrayal of a gay relationship, the begining of the AIDS crisis and what it was like then to try and survive the disease.

The author is now himself passed in 1995- it is amazing to have this account of one couple's fight at a time when social services were non-existant a
Sep 20, 2007 Mandy rated it it was amazing
Shelves: memoir
One of the best memoirs I have ever read. I wept, openly wept like my heart was being ripped out of my chest -- as I read this. God, this man can write. He writes so beautifully and tells such a heartbreaking story -- you will weep at both the beauty of his words and the loss of his friend and love. Go read this book. Now.
Sarah Jane
May 07, 2009 Sarah Jane rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone who loves someone else
How can I not give this book 5 stars? This is probably the most well-written memoir I have ever encountered. It reads like the most painful of poems, and I was entranced and horrified and saddened all at the same time.
Jul 27, 2012 Melissa rated it it was amazing
During a critique session, someone in my writing group asked me about my motivation for my novel-in-progress. It’s set in the midst of the AIDS epidemic and is a young adult novel based on real-life experiences. It’s a story that I’m compelled to tell for several reasons.

I thought about my answer for a minute before responding to my friend.

“I don’t want this story to be forgotten,” I said simply, adding that for my kids’ generation, the fear and the panic of AIDS – not to mention the blatant ind
Jun 22, 2012 Vicki rated it it was amazing
The single greatest memoir about love and loss EVER written. Greater than C.S. Lewis' "A Grief Observed," for example? Yes. I know, a strong statement, but if you know someone who can read this book and not be forever changed, well, as playwright Tony Kushner says about skeptical people who refuse to come to the theatrical experience with gullibility, "Run away from them. They're not good people."

All of those so-called "Christian" fools who think that AIDS was a plague brought on my gay men's "
Addicted to Books
5 heartbreakingly beautiful Poignant Stars. Paul Monette, your book will always stay with me forever.

This is one of the most beautiful books I have read this year.

A Very emotional and great reading experience. I teared up and cried numerous times. Rest In Peace Paul Monette. Your heart has been immortalized through your book.

The pain of dying from a disease which was not understood much(back in the 80s), struggling with
losing your passionate life and the man you love so much to that same dis
Jul 06, 2008 Scott rated it it was amazing
Any gay man today who has any shred of honesty or happiness in their life today, owes it to themselves and those before them to read this book. We are extremely fortunate to be who we are WHEN we are - because if we had randomly been born 20 years prior, our lives as gay men would have been a terrifying, defeating nightmare. This book is hopeful, delicate, human. Filled with rage and with grace - it is an important reminder to me, in my life, how lucky I am.
Nov 26, 2007 Scott rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Anyone who wants to know what it was like in the early days of the AIDS pandemic
This book was amazing.

Before I finished it I told a friend it was depressing. But I've just finished it now, 2 days after World AIDS Day 2007, I find it sad but also so very inspiring. It shows a love so deep in a time of utter crisis and chaos. Just beautiful.

I will never forget the book or Paul & Rog.
Jul 06, 2013 Jordan rated it liked it
Even though I know now that the drug had turned on Roger, I still can't understand how we could have had no warning. Hope had left us so unprepared. We had grown so grateful for little things. Out of nowhere you go from light to dark, from winning to losing, go to sleep murmuring thanks and wake to an endless siren. The honeymoon was over, that much was clear. Now we would learn to borrow time in earnest, day by day, making what brief stays we could against the downward spiral from which all our
May 10, 2011 Celeste rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2011
I bought this from a search I ran on for memiors concerning AIDS.

Wow. The writing was poignant and full of raw truth. It was not over indulgent in the writing, which is so easy for a talented author to do in a memior. As one would expect, it was loaded with sadness, but there were so many instances of light moments and memories that balanced the emotional tone of the work. It didn't push away heterosexual readers or people who haven't faced AIDS head on. I know it's hokey, but I felt
Mar 22, 2013 Gina rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction, memoir, queer
This book was worth every heart-breaking sentence. I realize that it could not have been even a fraction as difficult (emotionally) to read as it must have been for Monette to write. I can only thank him for doing so.

Select Quotes:

Just fifteen months between Roger's beginning suramin treatment and me on ribavirin. Now we know that stride could have been made in '82 or '83 if the government hadn't been playing ostrich. Spilled milk, people tell me; you can't undo the past. But can't w
Jan 22, 2010 Sascha rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Eveyone. Especially those against gay marriage,
i read this book the day after Thanksgiving when I was 16 . I can't believe it has been over 20 years since it was published. It is the most signifiant book I have ever read. The truest love story. It also spurred me to work with people with AIDS and to volunteer both at my college and the national headquarters of the Names Project AIDS Memorial Quilt.

And when I read the book, I felt an immediate connection to the author, Paul Monette,. He went on to write other masterpieces about his life livi
Aug 19, 2008 Angie rated it it was amazing
To say this was a good book almost seems inappropriate, because to judge it as a literary piece given the fact that it tells a true and devastating sorry just seems….tangential. Monette is an amazing write (this is his first work I’ve read) and he left me hungering for each page to find out what happened to his beloved Roger in his battle with AIDS. To travel their journey with them during the early days of AIDS where so much was unknown and so much was trial & error…it was horrifying.

"Grief is a sword, or it is nothing."

A furious, sharp and heartbreaking memoir of the early days of the U.S. AIDS epidemic, and Monette's partner's diagnosis, illness and death. Fiercely sorrowful, unsparingly angry. This book has substantial gaps in its political insight; it is primarily a story of the ravages AIDS wreaked on white rich gay men's community in Los Angeles in the mid-80s. But it is still one of the best political memoirs I've ever read, for its sheer determination and clarity of
Christopher Ashcraft
Mar 14, 2016 Christopher Ashcraft rated it it was amazing
Deeply personal and lovely. While parts of it introduced too many minor characters in the author's life, there were several searing passages that made me openly cry.

This is a really important book--I don't want to call it a time capsule--that reminds us of the struggle gay men originally faced (stigma and all) for recognition of the AIDS crisis in the early 80s, but told as a tender love story. It's even more poignant after reading the author's memoir about his struggles with his sexuality as a
Bev Wall
Aug 30, 2013 Bev Wall rated it it was ok
What can I say about this book. Hmmmm! I liked it OK, but I wasn't in love with it. Borrowed Time is a first-person account of AIDS. Roger and the author, Paul Monette were lovers and Roger contracted AIDS. The story is about the 2 years that he suffered with AIDS before he died. It is basically a love story that is very detailed (and not necessarily richly), and tells a story about two gay men and the world they lived in in the 1980's. Sorry, but I couldn't finish this book - it was 342 pages o ...more
Leslie Nord
Apr 16, 2011 Leslie Nord rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
A tragedy, beautifully written. Two gay men who have a great love for each other, who succumb to aids in the 80s - he helps you empathize with what it felt like, to be a gay man and lose your great love to a disease that is only being discovered and understood. The heroic efforts they take, as we all would take, to save the person who means the most to them. Amazing piece that captures that space in time - puts a human face on it. Also shows their families - how they grow to adore the one who lo ...more
Sep 14, 2007 Larry rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: anyone
What a marvelous book this was in its day. I am sure that if one looked they could find a better one. He was so brave to let us all look at his life and illness. I have lost so many friends and this book helped me in so many ways to help adjust to all the death around me. I would recommend this book to anyone who has lost/losing a love one to this disease even if it isnt immenent.
May 25, 2009 J rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: the world
Shelves: must-reads
I never read someone who had the power to literally crush my heart with words.And believe me I am not trying to be smart or clever, I know I'm not. Paul is just impossible to describe. If you never read anything else in your life,this is it.
Christopher Parsons
Mar 06, 2009 Christopher Parsons rated it it was amazing
What a painful, heartbreaking, beautiful book. Monette's poetic description of his partner's death from AIDS is a life changing read. Once you've finished weeping, check out his book of poetry called "Love Alone: 18 Elegies for Rog" which will give you more perspective on their relationship.
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Documentary: On Brink of Summer's End 1996

Online Guide to Paul Monette's papers at UCLA:

In novels, poetry, and a memoir, Paul Monette wrote about gay men striving to fashion personal identities and, later, coping with the loss of a lover to AIDS.

Monette was born in Lawrence, Massac
More about Paul Monette...

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“It will be recorded that the dead in the first decade of the calamity died of our indifference.” 11 likes
“Grief is a sword, or it is nothing.” 7 likes
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