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Heaven's Coast: A Memoir

4.33  ·  Rating details ·  882 ratings  ·  94 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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4.33  · 
Rating details
 ·  882 ratings  ·  94 reviews


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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
...more
Justin
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, a ...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
...more
Christina
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.
Nina
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.
Samantha
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.
Cheryl
Mar 29, 2014 rated it it was amazing
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 i
...more
SabirSultan
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 unen ...more
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
...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
...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
...more
Joey Woolfardis
Dec 16, 2014 rated it did not like it
Shelves: 2015, masculine
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.
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
Claudia Davidson
Feb 24, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
I wish I could personally thank Mark Doty for this book. He always claims to be verging on the unsayable, on the unknowable, on Heaven’s Coast; but his words are some of the most beautifully, humanely accurate that I have ever read. Every line of this is a poem, a spiritual dance, and I am in awe. Every line, no matter how heartbreaking, made me feel entirely more human, entirely more inspired, and entirely more connected to this physical and emotional world of memory, desire, space, grief, and ...more
Mary
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
...more
Brigitte
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.
Annie
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.
Candace
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.
Kissiah
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!
Angie
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.
Rodney Rauch
Apr 05, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Heartbreaking, breathtaking, absolutely beautiful. Words fall short. Read it.
Chris
Mar 26, 2018 rated it it was amazing
wow
Jennifer
Jan 04, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I am exhausted.
Charles Mcgregor
Dec 30, 2016 rated it liked it
This is a very important book with lots of powerful moments. The pov of a partner figuring out how to pick up the pieces of his life after his partner (and a good chunk community) died of aids is unique and important to get down into a memoir. As someone who can speak firsthand about the trauma hiv/aids has wreaked, I'm glad this work exists. There are brilliant metaphors throughout that make you gasp with their melancholy and brilliance. I also love how honest Dotty is with how their relationsh ...more
Dee
Dec 22, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"This is how I see through the wider end of the telescope, when my perspective's wide enough to see us as part of this vast interchange of being, not its center. On other days, the water of grief--deep, impenetrable, dark, cold--pours over everything and then I am lightless, unseeing." - p.9

"And there is somehow in the grand scale of dune and marsh and sea room for all of human longing, placed firmly in context by the larger world: small, our flames are, though to us raging, essential." - p. 18

"
...more
Rj
Apr 06, 2014 rated it it was amazing
All my life I've lived with a future, which constantly diminishes but never vanishes. 4.

Metaphor is a way of knowing the world, and no less a one than other sorts of ways of gaining knowledge. 25.

Sorrow is the cathedral, the immense architecture; in its interior there's room for almost everything: for desire, for flashes of happiness, for making plans for the future. And for watching all those evidences of ongoing life crumble in the flash of remembering, in the recurring wave of fresh grief. 62
...more
Hendecam
May 16, 2014 rated it really liked it
Mark Doty's memoir, Heaven's Coast, is one of the most poetic books I've read in a long time. Ripe with vivid imagery, Doty's talent as a poet shines through in his prose.

In this book, Doty recounts the life and death of his lover Wally who succumbed to AIDS-related illness in the early 1990s. As Doty deals with this, he's also faced with the deaths of friends from AIDS and a very close friend who dies in a car accident. While all this sounds tragic, it's Doty's hopeful message that shines thro
...more
Richard Jespers
Nov 13, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Doty writes a memoir concerning the death of his lover, Wally Roberts, from complications due to AIDS. Unbelievably controlled prose, but unbridled emotion. I’ve never cried so freely while reading a book. Yet Doty is funny, as well:

“And I was cooking for three, and teaching, and taking care of a man who’d just collapsed in my house; learning to cook like June Cleaver didn’t exactly seem an option” (196-7).


Another passage that moved me deeply:

“Christmas Eve, I give him packages which I open fo
...more
Cayr
Nov 29, 2011 rated it really liked it
Mark Doty is an award-winning poet and one of this generation's best writers. In his memoir "Heaven's Coast", Doty shares his experiences as his poetry career is just starting to take off and his lover is simultaneously diagnosed with AIDS. It's 1989 and little is known about AIDS, and effective treatment is non-existent. Doty and Wally discover together how to live when life seems so tenuous.

I won't kid you; this is a very sad book. It is written beautifully, honestly and with soul - but it's
...more
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Mark Doty is the author of six books of poems and two memoirs, Heaven's Coast and Firebird. A Guggenheim, Ingram-Merrill, and Whiting Fellow, he has also received the National Book Critics Circle Award and the PEN/Martha Albrand Prize for Nonfiction. He teaches at the University of Houston, and divides his time between Houston and Provincetown, Massachusetts.
“And, I think, this greening does thaw at the edges, at least, of my own cold season. Joy sneaks in: listening to music, riding my bicycle, I catch myself feeling, in a way that’s as old as I am but suddenly seems unfamiliar, light. I have felt so heavy for so long. At first I felt odd- as if I shouldn’t be feeling this lightness, that familiar little catch of pleasure in the heart which is inexplicable, though a lovely passage of notes or the splendidly turned petal of a tulip has triggered it. It’s my buoyancy, part of what keeps me alive: happy, suddenly with the concomitant experience of a sonata and the motion of the shadows of leaves. I have the desire to be filled with sunlight, to soak my skin in as much of it as I can drink up, after the long interior darkness of this past season, the indoor vigil, in this harshest and darkest of winters, outside and in.” 17 likes
“All my life I've lived with a future which constantly diminishes but never vanishes.” 7 likes
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