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The Sea Is Quiet Tonight: A Memoir

4.34  ·  Rating details ·  73 ratings  ·  34 reviews
In this insightful and inspirational memoir, Michael Ward returns to the early years of the AIDS epidemic, when so little was known and so few who were diagnosed survived. He chronicles in candid detail his partner Mark's decline and eventual death. By looking back on these tragic events, the author not only honors a generation lost to the illness but also opens a vital wi ...more
Paperback, 204 pages
Published November 1st 2016 by Querelle Press (first published 2016)
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Average rating 4.34  · 
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Oct 06, 2016 rated it really liked it

“Love and death. For a generation of gay men, love and death were inextricably intertwined. To love in the age of AIDS was to mourn”.

"HIV-positive“ is no longer a death sentence. Modern medicines allow many of the infected people to live a long and normal life.
It was different at the beginning of the epidemic, it was a terrible time, not only because the NUMBERS of deaths are so impressively terrifying, but mostly because how little we knew about the disease.

AIDS erased a whole generation
Oct 03, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Emotional, honest, heart-wrenching account of Michael Ward and Mark Halberstadt, who meet at Fire Island in September of 1981 and fell in love. Mike is a therapist in Boston and Mark a former teacher with an uncompleted PhD in Arabic Studies, who is pursuing his dream career as a boat captain.

In March of 1983, Larry Kramer writes "1,112 and Counting" - which Michael considers "hysterical and melodramatic" and doesn't see how AIDS could relate to him at all. Soon Mark has a bad case of thrust, g
Apr 29, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: netgalley
This was a bit sad, a bit bittersweet, and a lot beautiful. The author chronicles the AIDS epidemic as he looses friends and his partner. This subject matter is very special to me. In the 90's I interned at an AIDS hospice and these men and their lives had such an impact on me.

In a world of Prep and other medications, I don't think this younger generation really understands the nightmare world of the 80's and 90's. I think this is an important story to tell and an important story for people to
Nov 03, 2016 rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2016, non-fiction, arc

The Sea is Quiet Tonight

Hey boys welcome to liberty and freedom, here have a virus……………...

Written as a day by day memoir - which kind of amazes me as I tend to remember snippets of happenings, feelings rather than the daily nitty gritty. Ward does not hold back on the details, he gives a candid and honest picture which is not cosmetically tricked up to look better. As a memoir of an American guy who lived in Boston/New York in the eighties it gives a wealth of information.

This is a hard review
Peter Gajdics
Apr 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Men who love men need to tell their stories, and tell them often, because I think we learn best by example. Michael Ward's deeply moving memoir, "The Sea is Quiet Tonight," is remarkable not only because of its testimonial to the early years of AIDS, but because of its story of two men who loved each other, deeply, and who forged that intimate relationship in the face of numerous familial and societal obstacles. Reading Ward's book, I was amazed at how many of the issues from the early 1980’s st ...more
Jacqui Bloomberg
Dec 19, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I was completely drawn into this story, getting to know the characters from many different perspectives. Mike Ward's writing is beautiful, honest, and courageous. In addition to bringing to life the history of the AIDS movement in Boston, it also provides an intimate view of one couple's personal experience with the dreadful disease. I learned more in this book than I did during the actual period, and I am now aware of so many aspects that seemed hidden from the public. Learning the significance ...more
May 09, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
It's hard to say I "enjoyed" this book as it is a memoir of the AIDS crisis. It is sad and dripping with love and loss but not maudlin or exploitative. Michael Ward tells an honest story of his relationship with his boyfriend Mark. Their families are described and the whole period is beautifully and heartbreakingly described. It isn't a lightweight or easy read but it is vital that we do not forget this pain or these people and Mr Ward captures it all with searing honesty.

I was given a free cop
Aug 18, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Late 1982. first trip to fire island. my goodness; what a year to pick to come out. this story was deeply moving and as a buddy to 4 men who didn't survive, how heart wrenching to read a story that was repeated over and over; but told here by michael ward in a such a moving way. it took several minutes to read the last chapter on mike's life as its impossible to read anything through flowing tears. Thank you for sharing this story. ...more
Jeffrey Round
May 06, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Utterly moving and exquisitely written -- I can't name a better memoir. This account of the end of a love affair in the mid-80s to AIDS will always have a place of honour on my shelves. ...more
Vellum Voyages
Apr 11, 2017 rated it it was amazing
5 helms

Please follow me on my blog :) Review originally posted on Vellum Voyages (

Love and death. For a generation of gay men, love and death were inextricably intertwined. To love, in the ages of AIDS, was to mourn. - Mitchell Katz, M.D

This is Michael Ward's and Mark Halberstadt's story- a chronicle of two gay men, their love for one another and how their lives become affected by the HIV epidemic in the 1980s. Michael (Mike) and Mark meet at a beach house on Fire Island
Nov 01, 2016 rated it it was amazing
‘Gay men in the seventies and early eighties saw Fire Island as a combination Mecca and Oz’

Massachusetts author Michael H. Ward has a strong history of aiding others. He earned his BA and MA in English Literature from the University of Nebraska, taught composition and literature on military installations in the North Atlantic for University of Maryland Overseas Program, became Director of Freshman English at Tuskegee Institute, joined the test development staff at Educational Testing Center and
John Treat
Feb 17, 2017 rated it really liked it
This is, again, the story of two gay men whose lives are torn asunder in the early 1980s. I say "again" but we need thousands more of these memoirs. Everything to which we are accustomed is there: that crowded beach house on Fire Island, then little disquieting signs of a body in revolt, the first news of a mysterious disease, the hypochondria, the mounting diagnoses, the search for miracle drugs, "the test," more tests of their love under the burden of illness and care-giving, then the death of ...more
Oct 22, 2016 rated it really liked it
The discovery of HIV in the early 80's was a death sentence for the gay man.
This is just that: A heartbreaking chronicle of a man who gets the terminal diagnosis.
More than that is the love and care he receives from his partner and friends as well as his medical caretakers.
I know many people who have this devastating disease and now live their lives with simply a cocktail to keep the disease and blood counts in check.
Back in the 80 's, I worked in an oncologist office as the chemo nurse,and rem
Nov 04, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I was around 10 years old when the first AIDS cases were being diagnosed. It was a confusing and scary time because it was all part of the unknown.

As a child I knew about the crisis, but felt disconnected from it. This book brings to life those early years and gives us all a front row seat to experience how the crisis turned love and life into inexplicable (and often swift) loss.

The book is beautifully written. I found myself getting so immersed in the heartfelt storytelling I couldn't put it d
Liz Gray
Oct 20, 2016 rated it really liked it
Ward's poignant memoir is hard to put down. He tells the story of his partner Mark--their meeting in the early 1980s on Fire Island, their burgeoning romance, and Mark's death from AIDS--with candor, kindness, and humor. In addition to being a riveting personal story, "The Sea Is Quiet Tonight" offers an inside look into the early years of the AIDS epidemic in Boston, which has never received as much air time as bigger cities like San Francisco and New York. Ward's first reading and signing will ...more
Suzanne Martell
Dec 16, 2016 rated it it was amazing
A beautifully written tribute to his partner, Mark and the heartbreaking plights of all those affected by the AIDS epidemic. It has given me insight into what my cousin, Mark must have experienced in his battle with the disease. I feel truly blessed to have been allowed entry into this intimate battle of the illness and hope that many others will find solace and gain strength in their own journey no matter what illness besieges their life. Thanks, Mike for your honesty and bravery in sharing you ...more
Feb 02, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: gay-writers
Beautiful, Pure, Honest, Raw, Passionate, Caustic, Symptomatic, Heart-breaking, Sentinel,
True Love, Cathartic, Healing.

Excerpt that deeply resonated within me:
" I see your face so peaceful now... The sea is quiet tonight. The sea will be quiet tonight for many nights to come for you. I wish you peace on your journey, my love."
Jan 19, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Great account on the AIDS epidemic in Boston in the 1980s. I would recommend this for anyone who wants a love story or wants to learn more about the stigma gay men faced at the time.
Jan 21, 2018 rated it it was ok
Shelves: non-fiction, memoir
This is a difficult review to write. I believe this is an important book -- understanding the day-to-day experiences of people affected by the AIDS virus at the beginning of the epidemic is a historically important document and these are the kinds of stories that need to be told. There is an honesty and unvarnished truth to the telling that is admirable. However, as a book it's only okay at best. The writing is stilted with a "first this happened and then this happened" kind of telling which pre ...more
Cindy Hall
May 06, 2017 rated it it was amazing
OK. I am completely biased on this one. It was written by the partner of Jamin's uncle Mark Halberstadt, and is the story of their relationship and Mark's battle with AIDS. I am so moved by this memoir that gave me insight into a man whom I never met but wished I had, as well as such an intimate look into the relationship of two gay men in the early 1980s -- a time when AIDS was just rearing its head as the horrific illness that it is. Michael Ward honors the many lives cut short by this disease ...more
Nov 10, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Copy provided by the publisher for review

At first I wasn't sure how I felt about this book, it reads very much like a novel, in the sense that events from over 30 years ago are described with such clarity it almost feels like a story, not a memory. It took a little while to get used to the style but by the end, I was enthralled and read most of the book over a day.
It's obviously a sad story, but it's an important story, one of strength and love and loss and a reminder of what the previous gener
Judith Siers-Poisson
May 11, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I couldn't put this book down and read it in two long evenings. This is an exceptionally well-written memoir of being a young gay man in the early 1980s when the HIV/AIDS epidemic first hit the community. Ward tells the story of a difficult but deeply loving relationship with his partner in the years before the diagnosis in a very compelling way, and then the struggles they faced with the disease is clear-eyed while also heartbreaking. Really a wonderful book. ...more
Aug 16, 2017 rated it it was amazing
A very open, honest and touching memoir.

A very emotional read about the loving relationship of Mark and Mike and the turmoil of the AIDS epidemic of the early 80's, the sad decline in Marks health and his eventual death.

Such a beautiful heartbreakingly sad story to read....
Betty Harris
May 21, 2017 rated it really liked it
Very tender story of a love lost to HIV/AIDS. Felt like I was there much of the time. While the death toll is t making headlines it is still changing and taking lives
Sep 24, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Beautifully written ❤️
Ginger Perry
The Cardwell Ranch Collection
Dec 20, 2016 rated it liked it
Over thirty years have passed since news of the unexplained deaths of gay men was first reported by the media. Healthy young men became ill with a mysterious illness that claimed their lives within a few months. The medical community was stymied, aggressively tracking every symptom, looking for commonalities, pursuing every possible treatment. Then it was named: AIDS, and for many years was a death sentence, its specter haunting gay men and their partners. Will I be next? Is he showing symptoms? ...more
Valerie Haberman
Sep 29, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I love this book. I was caught by Mike’s description of the beginnings of his relationship with Mark, those adjustments that are endured as two people love each other and begin to assimilate their lives. Adjustment sounds like such an easy word but, as Mike describes, there is a world of inner and outer changes that take place to accommodate this new aspect of life and self; the joining with another person to share a life. Mike captures sweet normalcy of unburdened days, but with the many burden ...more
Robyn Obermeyer
I like the way it read, being able to write about Mark in a way that felt as if he was very much alive,until he got sick, very sad ...........
Shira Block
Nov 07, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Thank you, Mike Ward, for opening your heart and sharing your intimate story of love and loss during the AIDs epidemic. I had just gratuated college in the 80s when news of the epidemic went widespread. I knew that some of the freedom of life, dating, and exploration had permanently constricted, however I had no personal connection to why or to the suffering and fear that went along with that change. After reading The Sea Is Quiet Tonight, I have a new understanding and am inspired by the resili ...more
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