Author Michael Ausiello

Just like in the movies, you’d planned to grow old together.

You’d be the couple everyone smiled at: two wrinkled beings, holding hands, fussing good-naturedly at one another. Still in love, like the movies, till death do you part – but then, in the new memoir Spoiler Alert: The Hero Dies by Michael Ausiello, someone changes the script.

When Ausiello spotted Christopher “Kit” Cowan at a New York event for gay athletes, it was lust at first sight. At six-foot-something tall, bespectacled Kit Cowan was geeky-sexy – just Ausiello’s type, and, although they kissed and kissed some more that night, their first date was near-disastrous.

They were different in so many ways: aesthetics, family, childhoods and personalities. Ausiello thought Cowan had amazing style; Cowan could barely get past Ausiello’s Smurf collection. As time passed, they told one another “olive juice” (which sounds like “I love you” when whispered) and adopted a cat, endearing nicknames, and couples language. Cowan helped Ausiello overcome his bullied past. Ausiello learned not to wake Cowan too early. They moved in together, conquered relationship crises, moved out together, and sought counseling.

They wanted things to work. This was for the long-term, but just over a decade into their relationship, they faced more challenges: Cowan, who had endured bowel problems for some time, was diagnosed with a fist-sized, cancerous invader in his rectum.

Yet there was hope. They’d heard neuroendocrine tumors were rare, but responded to treatment.

Their third second-opinion doctor told them otherwise: Cowan had a year to live.

How do you advocate for an ailing loved one? Ausiello, a writer and TV critic who had lost his beloved mother to cancer, learned to be fierce on Cowan’s behalf.

Spoiler Alert: The Hero Dies by Michael Ausiello c. 2017, Atria, $26, 320 pages

How do you make every minute count? After being told he was going to die, Cowan married Ausiello in a City Hall ceremony that came perilously close to not happening. It was followed by a memorable honeymoon, and chemotherapy.

How do you watch someone you love suffer?  How do you say goodbye?

Of course, you know how this book ends. It’s right there in the title, so you’re probably not surprised. The first thing you’ll want to know, though – especially if you’re prone to cry – is that this is not a book that will leave you howling. Ausiello jumps right in with humor on page one – a sassy, snarky kind of funny that’s endearing because it’s not mean-spirited – and carries it throughout the book.

But that’s not to mitigate the sadness or seriousness of what happens here. The humor sometimes feels thin, as if Ausiello is protecting his readers from the full brunt of the horror of watching someone fade away. There’s an attempt at lighthearted at that point, but you’ll see through it and know better.

In his last pages, gift-like, Ausiello leaves readers with a perfect movie image, despite the fact that Spoiler Alert: The Hero Dies lives up to its title. Yes, you will cry. No, you shouldn’t pass on it. And that’s a wrap.

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Photo by Alonso Reyes on Unsplash

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