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Heaven's Coast: A Memoir

4.33  ·  Rating details ·  961 ratings  ·  100 reviews
The year is 1989 and Mark Doty's life has reached a state of enviable equilibrium. His reputation as a poet of formidable talent is growing, he enjoys his work as a college professor and, perhaps most importantly, he is deeply in love with his partner of many years, Wally Roberts. The harmonious existence these two men share is shattered, however, when they learn that Wall ...more
Paperback, 320 pages
Published January 31st 1997 by Harper Perennial (first published March 1st 1996)
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Average rating 4.33  · 
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 ·  961 ratings  ·  100 reviews

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Mar 13, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2020, recs
A thoughtful account of a partner’s descent into illness, full of exquisite descriptions of Cape Cod and moving reflections on grief, loss, and love. The work’s a great deal less political than many AIDS memoirs, but its portrait of a death in slow motion still serves as a powerful indictment of a callous society.
Julie Ehlers
"And then I thought of us as standing on a kind of sandbar, the present a narrow strip of land which had seemed, previously, enormous, without any clear limits. Oh, there was a limit out there, somewhere, of course, but not anywhere in sight. But the virus was a kind of chill, violent current, one which was eroding, at who knew what speed, the ground upon which we stood. If you watched, you could see the edges crumbling."

I lived this book. That's not a typo—I loved this book, of course, but I me
Jan 27, 2008 rated it it was ok
I just bought Mark Doty's latest collection of poems today, Fire to Fire . So far it's pretty great, most notably for its shimmering depictions of natural phenomena ranging from a bat flying in rural Britain to the ocean shores of Provincetown. Doty's gift for lyrical description is so impressive he'll actually startle me with his language, stringing words together to create beautiful, naturalistic illusions, like some kind of linguistic magician. This talent is also found in his prose works, ...more
Writer's Relief
Apr 14, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Mark Doty is an openly gay poet who has for many years used his work as powerful LGBTQ+ activism. He is best known for his poetry, but any lover of his poems should be just as excited to read this memoir.

HEAVEN’S COAST is a lyrical, emotional account of the years surrounding the death of Doty’s partner, Wally. Doty recounts Wally’s heartbreaking battle with AIDS—from his initial diagnosis to his devolution as the disease progresses to his final moments. Doty also reminisces over the early years
Jul 16, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Doty's memoir shimmers with love, with joy, with pain, with grief. His prose is as rich and lyrical as his poetry. He invites us into his soul as he describes in unsparing detail his lover's journey through HIV. Doty honors his partner with every word; the love and respect is obvious, as well as the despair that results from knowing what is to come and being totally powerless to prevent it.
Oct 01, 2009 rated it it was amazing
This is one of my absolute favorite books of all time! I read it in a theological studies seminar back in my undergrad days, and if you need any indication that LMU is more of a liberal Catholic school, you can consider that I was reading this beautiful book, about a gay man whose lover is dying of AIDS, as part of the course curriculum.
Dana Sweeney
Sep 01, 2018 rated it it was amazing
The most attentive, enduring exploration of grief that I have ever read, bar none. I have always heard Joan Didion’s “The Year of Magical Thinking” described as the guidebook or tome to loss. While I love that memoir (and while it’s not a competition), I was absolutely floored by this account, and the vibrant emotional depths Doty plunges into will always make this my go-to memoir on love and grief.

Basic summary: Mark Doty, a phenomenal poet, recounts what it was like losing his long-term partn
Dec 12, 2014 rated it it was amazing
This book destroyed me. It made me weep loudly and openly in public, warmed my heart, and inundated me with achingly beautiful language.
This was stunning, beautiful, speechlessly powerful, and the longest poem I have ever read.

A poet writing a prose memoir is bound to be poetical, but this was more than that, it was a poem on every page, every chapter, within, and for every breath.

There are many times I feel that the universe is tapped into my interior landscape and gives me what I need: rain in some cases, snow in others, a sunset, a moon rise, etc. And when I need it, I have always felt my spirit lift to meet it, and absorb
Aug 03, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: memoir, hiv-aids
In "Heaven's Gate a memoir" Mark Doty writes eloquently about his life with his partner Wally, and the grief from his slow descent to death. He captures their experience, what it was like living with AIDS in the early years when there were no medications and the doctors had no answers. He sums up his grief, "I don’t know anything different about death than I ever have, but I feel differently. I inhabit this difference in feeling—or does it live in me?—at the same time as I’m sorrowing. The possi ...more
Patricia Murphy
Jul 22, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: memoir
I'm glad Doty wrote this but I'm sorry he lived it.

Harder even than Wally’s death, my life’s watershed, toward which all the time before it moved, and all the time after hurries away.

There are times I feel I’m translating, in my head, from one language to another; I’ve become a citizen of grief’s country, and now I find I don’t always easily speak the old tongue I used to know so well.

“Does a snowflake in an avalanche feel responsible?”

"And to die is different from what anyone supposed, and luc
Robert Vaughan
Apr 23, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I read this when it was published. And then read it again in one sitting this past weekend. Broke my heart a second time.
Jul 25, 2018 rated it liked it
​Heaven’s Coast is not an easily categorized memoir. Yes, it is a memoir of grieving of loss, and it is elegiac, but it is not simply a grief memoir. In it Mark Doty chronicles his partner, Wally’s, decline from AIDS and the effect it has on their lives as they try to figure out how to live through Wally’s dying. That is the machinery of the book though – the source of its narrative thrust. Richer than that, it is the story of a questing mind trying to reckon with AIDS and death, both in the une ...more
Will Chin
Mar 23, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Marriage changes things. Beyond the obvious, subtler things reveal themselves to you over time. You slowly get used to the weight of the person next to you in bed, the sound of his/her deep breathing at night, or that hacking cough that doesn't sound right — you know, the little things. Another thing that you start to think about (usually right before sleep) is what happens when you grow old and one of you passes away first. You start to imagine both scenarios — if I was to die first and if she ...more
April Guilmet
May 27, 2009 rated it really liked it
I read this book last winter, having a fondness for Doty's lyrical poetry and prose, and having thoroughly enjoyed "Dog Years."
I can say this is truly one of the most devastatingly sad stories I've ever read, one too close to home for anyone who has ever cared for a terminally ill loved one and watch them slowly fade away. Doty's longtime partner died of AIDS in the 1990s: his story is based on the couple's final years together and is, at times, difficult to read. Nothing is sugar-coated here, a
Joey Woolfardis
Dec 16, 2014 rated it did not like it
Shelves: masculine, 2015
There is nothing wrong with the book, or memoir, but it is all me. I went in to it not knowing what it was or who it was written by, and there is no fault there but my own. I can say nothing more.
Sep 06, 2017 rated it it was amazing
When I put down this book I said aloud, "That is the best book I've ever read."
Not exactly in the way that after you read a book you know you're mentally filing it away on a list of top ten or top five books you've ever read.
This is a book that I got halfway through, then had to put down, so I could take a night off from it to bawl uncontrollably.
This is a book that will take whatever grief you've been running from, that you haven't fully processed yet, and yank it out of its dark hiding place a
Scott Pomfret
Oct 12, 2019 rated it liked it
Doty’s is a distinctively Provincetown story about the death of his partner Wally from AIDS (and the self-destruction of a fellow female poet at about the same time). As would be expected from a poet, the prose is lush and beautiful, and the second-by-second account of Wally’s dying minutes is arresting, and beautiful, and brutal.

Still, I didn’t feel like I knew Wally at the end of this book. I only knew that Doty loved Wally. In fact, by the end, I felt I knew more about Doty’s back pain than
Dec 13, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
another magnificent memoir

profound, moving, a glorious and truthful portrait of a life of close togetherness shattered by illness, but transcended by the love they share. a book I will read over and over again for the beauty of the language, the sensuality of every moment so filled with colors, smells, sensations, emotions, i learned a lot about life and death and am so grateful that from his deep grief Mark Doty could write such an illuminating book.
Nov 10, 2019 rated it really liked it
An extremely moving depiction of caretaker grief in the heart of the AIDS crisis. Having been a child in this era, I simply wanted to move beyond this period of history. With age and wisdom, I was ready to hear about it, and I’m glad I did. What a truly terrible biological holocaust to have happened, and what a gift that a survivor documented it so well.
Oct 03, 2017 rated it liked it
Lyrical, warm, subtle intimate capture of personal loss. I think it could have ended a chapter sooner, however. The epilogue felt disjointed while trying to connect it to the whole. It could have been a separate work of lyrical prose, in my opinion. Still, Doty is brilliant!
Jul 11, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Absolutely stunning description of the devastation of AIDS on individual lives and the greater community. Doty is a gifted writer and poet, inspiring gorgeous vocabulary. Highly recommend this book.
Sep 05, 2018 rated it really liked it
This is the most beautiful book I've ever read. There is something unique about a writer who has the ability to combine beauty and tragedy without sentimentality. Written in prose that reads like a long poem, this work of art is an important look at grief and loss.
Apr 30, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction, lgbtqa
A beautiful elegy for his partner, a meditation on the complexities of grief, little fragments of biography around the edges. Not nearly as angry as Borrowed Time (although still angry), with more focus on what they had, right up to the end, rather than what was being lost.
Nov 02, 2019 rated it really liked it
Truly gorgeous writing, what I would expect from a poet, which was wonderful to read. A moving portrait of love and grief, and how we often grow up or out in unexpected ways through the loss of a vital relationship.
Jul 28, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Stunningly beautiful.
Briar Wyatt
Mar 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Yeah LOOK my heart hurts but I really needed to read this memoir about grief and losing (and leaving) gracefully. I've never actually read Doty's poems but I'll be seeking them out now.
Mar 26, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Rodney Rauch
Apr 05, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Heartbreaking, breathtaking, absolutely beautiful. Words fall short. Read it.
Jul 04, 2019 marked it as to-buy
From the Art of Memoir reading list by Mary Karr
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Mark Doty is a poet, essayist, and memoirist. He is the author of ten books of poetry, including Deep Lane and Fire to Fire: New and Selected Poems, which won the National Book Award. He lives in New York, New York.

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