From Pulitzer Prize winner Amanda Bennett comes a moving, eye-opening, and beautifully written memoir--a love story of two unusual people, their complex marriage and deep devotion, and finally, Bennett's quest to save her husband's life.
When Wall Street Journal reporter Amanda Bennett meets the eccentric, infuriating, yet somehow irresistible Terence Bryan Foley while on assignment in China, the last thing she expects is to marry him. They are so different--classic and bohemian, bow ties and batik, quirky and sensible. But Terence is persistent. "You are going to be somebody," he tells her. "You're going to need somebody to take care of you." Though initially as combative as their courtship, their marriage brings with it stormy passion, deep love and respect, two beloved children, and a life together over two decades. Then comes illness, and the fight to win a longer life for Terence.
The Cost of Hope chronicles the extraordinary measures Amanda and Terence take to preserve not only Terence's life but also the life of their family. After his death, Bennett uses her skills as a veteran investigative reporter to determine the cost of their mission of hope. What she discovers raises important questions many people face, and vital issues about the intricacies of America's healthcare system.
Rich in humor, insight, and candor, The Cost of Hope is an unforgettable memoir, an inspiring personal story that sheds light on one of the most important turning points in life.
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June 05, 2012
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Excerpt from The Cost of Hope by Amanda Bennett
It almost always begins in darkness, my memory's trip back to the China where Terence and I meet.
In the first week of February 1983, I fly in to Peking to take up my post as the correspondent for The Wall Street Journal. I am looking out the window of a Pan Am flight as it circles, preparing to land. Below is the country's capital, one of the world's biggest cities. This is not the China of the Olympics, the futuristic seventy-story towers and magnetic trains, of stylish wealthy entrepreneurs and world-devouring currency reserves. In 1983, eleven years after President Nixon's 1972 walk along the Great Wall, the country is still enmeshed in the shock and trauma of the Cultural Revolution and of the turbulent three decades since the People's Republic of China was formed in 1949. It's still easy to see the gashing wounds from years of isolation, poverty, and the political instability of the Cultural Revolution that has barely ended.
Peking--it is still Peking in those days--is the home of 9.3 million people, yet there is none of the exuberant burst of light that normally greets travelers flying into a big city. There are no ocher ribbons of highway spiraling out from the city's center, nor do snakes of white headlights flow in one direction, red taillights in another. No massive office buildings flaunt shining squares into the night long after the workers have left for home. There are no cheerfully lighted houses either, no boxlike warrens of high-rise apartments fanning out to lighted loops of suburban cul-de-sacs. Instead, here in China's capital in the early 1980s, most people still live in dark one-story brick or stone courtyards with public street latrines. Even in the center of the city, some families still raise chickens and small pigs. Many homes still have no electricity at all.
It is a dark and silent city. In 1983 the country still hasn't recovered from the decadelong nightmare of the Cultural Revolution that pitted colleague against colleague, neighbor against neighbor, child against parent. The bleakness disturbs me. There are only a handful of cars--some owned by a tiny city-owned taxi fleet, a few driven by diplomats or journalists, as well as the hulking Russian-style Hongqi limousines favored by high-ranking Party officials. Someone sometime told someone that headlights burn gasoline, so only parking lights are used at night. The cars are ghostly shadows with tiny yellow cats' eyes.
Almost all the necessities of life--food, clothing, shelter--are supplied by the factory or office. Stores have only recently begun to reemerge, but most shop windows are still boarded up or plastered over. For many weeks I don't even realize that these darkened doorways are stores. It is a dingy, featureless wasteland.
For the first several months I live alone in an apartment that is also my office. While the telex clatters behind me, every night I stand on the twelfth-floor balcony looking down into the dark night toward the southeast of the city. I live herded together with the other journalists and diplomats in this walled compound of cinder-block buildings, guarded--and watched--by soldiers.
The winter air is bitter with the smoke of the soft coal briquettes that people use to heat their houses. Off in the distance I hear the wail of a train whistle. Directly below me, metal clops against asphalt as the horse-drawn delivery carts still allowed into the center city after sundown make their nightly rounds. Even late at night the streets pulse with bikers heading to work or back home or who knows where. Only the barest hint of color--a sleeve, a scarf, a ribbon--has begun to appear here and there to brighten the Communist-era Mao-style dress. Otherwise the bikers, both men and women, are all dark. Dark jackets. Dark trousers. Dark shoes. Dark hats. Dark bikes.
I stand on my balcony and think how lucky I am to be here at this historic moment--how excited, and at the same time how frightened, alone, and confused I am in this bleak, strange, unwelcoming place.
On Saturday, September 3, 1983, as midnight approaches I am still working. I work pretty much all the time. Just as I am starting to fade with exhaustion, New York wakes up with its barrage of questions and comments and demands. Working all day and then answering the phone through the night adds a kind of surreal, never-quite-awake/never-quite-asleep quality to my life in China.
Tonight I struggle with the story that just won't fall into shape. Mikhail Kapitsa, a Soviet deputy foreign minister, is set to arrive in the capital. He is the highest-ranking Soviet to visit since China and the Soviet Union broke off relations in 1960. Because the two countries had split, few Soviet experts are left in China, at least ones willing to talk. I can find almost no one who understands the politics of both countries well enough to explain the significance of the visit. There is no Internet; I check the indexes of all the reference books I have brought and find nothing. My interviews have been next to useless.
I planned to skip the party that John Broder, the Chicago Tribune correspondent in the next building over, is throwing. I must get this piece written! But I am worn out, lonely, and discouraged. I leave the yellow sheets in the typewriter and wander over, intending to stay for only a few minutes. John Broder is a witty, lively, guitar-playing bon vivant. His wife is beautiful and dark-haired with a wisp of an exotic accent--Israeli? Their party is an event.
The bow-tied man on the sofa across the room is wearing horn-rimmed glasses. He looks a bit out of place, maybe even a bit out of time. He's older than the others. Stouter. More formal.
When he motions me over, I settle in next to him and begin to tell him the subject of my troublesome story. His eyes light up. Sino-Soviet politics are his specialty, he says. In fact, he is here in Peking as a Fulbright scholar, on a one-year fellowship to China precisely to study the relations between China and the Soviet Union. We begin an intense conversation about the personal and professional hostilities between Mao and Stalin that had led to the countries' rift in the 1950s. The terrible economic price China had paid for the split. The effect on world politics of the two rivals, and the change in balance of power when the United States opened its arms gingerly again to China. It is a masterly discussion. Just what I have been missing. Just what I need. I am not so much of a geek as to bring a notepad to the party, so I try to memorize as much as I can before, close to 3:00 a.m., I say good night and walk home alone. I live only two buildings over, inside the compound surrounded by soldiers. By the next morning I remember the substance of the talk but not the man's name.
That afternoon I call our host. The Fulbright scholar? John is stumped. People just show up at his parties. He didn't know half the people in the room. I make a few other calls, but no one seems to recall the proper middle-aged man with the owlish glasses and bow tie. Without a name to pin the observations on, I'm not comfortable writing the story, so I let it go and chalk it up as another disappointment.
A few months go by. I have almost forgotten about him in the press of work. Then, without warning, I spot him again at another staple of 1980s China social life--a bank reception. A big American bank is opening its office here. It has rented the courtyard of a lovely old prerevolutionary home. The space is filled with the usual assortment of businesspeople, journalists, and Chinese officials in Mao jackets. There are drinks and hors d'oeuvres and endless speeches about friendship and cooperation. He is standing alone.
"I've been looking for you," I say.