Body and Soul: A Memoir of Love, Loss, and Healing
In Body and Soul: A Memoir of Love, Loss, and Healing, biographer Panthea Reid tells the story of her love affair with her husband, John Fischer, a Woodrow Wilson Fellow and Jonathan Swift scholar. Until John’s sudden death in 2015, they shared a four-decades-long love affair and literary partnership. Body and Soul unveils their deep romantic bond that began in the halls of Louisiana State University, where Reid and Fischer met in 1974. Two years later, they were married. Reid traces their rich literary partnership and shares their scholarly travels in pursuit of academic research. While Reid wove her way from William Faulkner to Virginia Woolf to Tillie Olsen, John deepened his expertise on his lifelong scholarly subject, Jonathan Swift. Together they built a family with Panthea’s son, Reid, from a previous marriage and their daughter, Hannah. Through the ups and downs of academic life and its attendant politics, Panthea and John’s love for each other, for literature, and for their family deepened and grew. After retiring from their teaching professions, the couple moved to Princeton, New Jersey. Panthea had by now completed biographies of Virginia Woolf and would complete another on Tillie Olsen. John pursued his Swift research, eventually taking up the project of completing the manuscript of Swift’s Word-Book—a dictionary Swift created for a female companion named Esther Johnson. Reid narrates the shock of her husband’s untimely death and shares the painful, sometimes amusing, always heartfelt story of her journey toward healing, during which she began writing again and also took up the task of completing the Word-Book, John’s final, unfinished project, continuing their literary partnership even after his death. With a list of suggested resources, Body and Soul provides a roadmap for those also suffering from loss and grief. Despite the heartbreak, Reid’s story ultimately celebrates life and the power of love.