Sara's Reviews > Dream New Dreams: Reimagining My Life After Loss

Dream New Dreams by Jai Pausch
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Jun 07, 12

bookshelves: first-reads, 2012, memoir
Read on June 06, 2012

Jai Pausch, the wife of Randy Pausch who gave the speech and then wrote the book The Last Lecture about fulfilling childhood dreams, wrote this memoir about her experience falling in love with Randy, going through his cancer diagnosis, being his caregiver, and then trying to reestablish herself after his death. It's not necessary to have read The Last Lecture to appreciate this book; it's not a follow-up so much as it is a complementary memoir, showing Jai's perspective throughout the entire ordeal and how her life continued after his.

I found this book quite inspiring and think those who've served as a caregiver could definitely find comfort in it. She does an excellent job explaining how her life changed after he was diagnosed and the stress it put on their relationship, their family, and even impacted her own identity. She doesn't dwell in self-pity but makes it clear just how difficult this was for everyone. Neither Jai nor Randy comes off as perfect - they were very different people with different approaches to life - but their strong bond was evident throughout the book, even during stressful times, and it's easy to understand why she misses him so much. Many of the beautiful parts bringing Randy to life came near the beginning: Jai notes that to Randy, giving gifts isn't about spending money but about putting heart into it, and she later describes their weekend routine of making pancakes with freeform shapes, letting their kids decide what the pancakes resembled.

Probably half of the book (perhaps slightly more) covered her time with Randy, mostly after his diagnosis up until his death, and then it covered her time trying to adjust to life without him. This build up helped give a good overview of what her life as a caregiver had entailed and how difficult it was, yet how she was still not ready for him to die. Once he's gone, she no longer has the difficult task of caring for her husband along with their three young children but has the even harder task of taking care of three kids on her own without him, his absence looming large over everyone. Her struggle to tell their kids about Randy is particularly sad to read. Though she clearly has more resources than others in the same sort of situation (a paid-for home, a nanny, family and friends, financial support), she is not unaware of this and even notes within the pages that she's aware of how not everyone is so lucky.

Some of the strongest chapters were about her trying to adjust immediately after Randy died, wanting to reclaim the "magic" that he'd brought into her life and that seemed to disappear along with him. It was both inspiring and heartbreaking to read about her solo and family trips to places they'd talked about. She also details opportunities that she'd seized after his death: redecorating, trading in a car she never liked, etc. - all trying to find hope where there didn't seem to be any.

Although I wish there had been a little more detail about her life without Randy and more details about her struggles (and the struggles of those around her) to adjust, this is such a hopeful and insightful book. The writing is beautiful, topics are handled gently but powerfully, and I believe it could give comfort to many people, just to know they're not alone in their struggles.

I received a free copy of this book through the First Reads program.
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