Celebrating love and the power of friendship

If February is about hearts and love, then there could be no more appropriate book than Amy Silverstein’s 2017 memoir, My Glory Was I Had Such Friends.

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If February is about hearts and love, then there could be no more appropriate book than Amy Silverstein's 2017 memoir, My Glory Was I Had Such Friends.

It was recently announced that a miniseries based on the book will be produced for Apple TV+, starring Jennifer Garner as Silverstein. Garner will also be an executive producer, alongside an impressive team of partners, including J. J. Abrams, Karen Croner, Ben Stephenson, and Silverstein herself.

This is not your typical Valentine's Day romance. It is a love story about friendship, fortitude, courage, and dedication.

Amy's heart is broken in the physical sense, medically and materially. She is a 50-year-old attorney-turned-author with a loving husband and college-age son-and a transplanted heart she received in an emergency surgery decades earlier, when she was impossibly young for heart failure.

Now her donor heart is failing, quickly and completely, despite years of vigilant care. She can't breathe and faces daunting choices, compounded by the recommendation that she and her husband Scott leave their friends and family and move across the country for her care.

In her words, "It's my doctor's strong recommendation that, due to the sudden severity of my condition and the complexities of second transplants, I leave my home and my transplant hospital of 26 years (Columbia University Medical Center in New York) and head to Cedars-Sinai in Los Angeles for more specialized care. Waiting in California for a matching donor heart could take many months, and the recovery after transplant would add several more, making this a difficult and expensive undertaking."

Thus, Amy and Scott face an extended time away from their home and support system-with the prospect of Scott being Amy's only onsite buttress, all while he must continue to meet the responsibilities of his job in New York.

What happens next is part one of the magic. Amy's friends, in an extraordinary gesture of love, allegiance, and impressive planning, arrange to come to California in an unbroken chain, one after another, leaving no date uncovered, while Amy waits for a potential life-saving transplant match.

The book's title comes from a poem by William Butler Yeats, and it beautifully captures the remarkable generosity and creativity of Amy's friends, some of whom have known each other since childhood, and some who meet for the first time while coordinating Amy's care. These friends are Amy's advocates, supporting her in body (sometimes literally) and spirit as she battles incredible pain and equally formidable odds. They are her sounding boards as she faces truly life-in-the-balance decisions. They manifest friendship as love.

Part two of the magic is the harrowing wait and ultimate success of Amy receiving a donor heart. Although this book comes with built-in knowledge of how it will end (after all, Amy is here to tell her tale and be involved in the development of the upcoming series), it is easy to forget all of that while immersed in the medical-and very personal-drama. I won't give anything away. But know that it made me think differently about transplants, organ donors, and what it means to have a heart.

Betsy Gomberg reads (and sometimes writes about) Jewish books. She is the Director of Marketing and Communications for Spertus Institute of Jewish Learning and Leadership.

 



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