Reviewed by Mark D. Walker (Guatemala 1971–73)
John Evans’ moving memoir reads like a Greek tragedy with deep Peace Corps roots. Should I Still Wish is the second of his books to tell a story in Bangladesh where he served with his wife, Katie, as well as his second wife, Cate, all of whom were part of the “Peace Corps Tribe.” The first book, Young Widower tells a dreadful tale of his wife being mauled to death by a brown bear in the Carpathian Mountains while they were working for a year in Romania. The unfairness of this loss and the brutality of nature would impact him for much of his life after this violent event.
In his second memoir, the author uses dreams, memories and a series of compelling stories to describe the stages of grief, guilt, fear and hope he lived through on his way to a new life as he falls in love again as a young widower. His new love, Cate, had attended the wedding and three years later, Katie’s funeral, and during the first months after Katie’s death had mailed a “care package” from the Bay Area.
Though heartbroken and lonely after his wife’s untimely death, John realizes that he cannot remain inconsolable, dwelling on the past, even as he’s living with his in-laws in Indiana. He sees a therapist who helps him deal with the guilt and set a path forward to a new life, one which would shift from Indianapolis to San Francisco.
At one point he reveals hauntingly that he could leave his routine “but never forget Katie’s voice.” He shared his most intimate dreams of both Katie and Cate with graphic imagery, such as the fact that Katie’s death anniversary was on the “longest evening of the year.”
Evans’ journey to recovery begins with a cross-country trip from the Badlands to the majesty of Yellowstone to the foothills of the Sierra Mountains, and the time contemplating his vulnerability and the legacy of a horrific tragedy.
Should I Still Wish chronicles the author’s efforts to leave a year of intense grief behind in order to make a new life by reconnecting with a woman who promises a new life of meaning and grace. With unflinching honesty, he explores the uncertainties, doubts and contradictions which eventually will lead to a new love story, celebration of fatherhood, meditation on the afterlife of grief and resilience and an inspirational story which leads to a new wife and beautiful children of his own.
The author is an accomplished professor of creative writing at Stanford and his book The Consolations was the winner of the 2015 Peace Corps Writers Best Poetry Book. Should I Still Wish will come out in January 2017 and can be pre-ordered — something I’d highly recommend for anyone looking for a moving memoir of love’s recovery.
Mark Walker implemented fertilizer experiments in Guatemala and Honduras, although his most important accomplishment was a wife and three children, all born in Guatemala. Following an MA degree in Latin American Studies from the University of Texas in Austin, Mark co-founded a Guatemalan development agency and then managed child sponsorship programs for Plan International in Guatemala, Colombia and Sierra Leone.
Mark has written and spoken in English and Spanish at a number of global conferences, including the Hemispheric Congress for Fundraising in Mexico, and has held senior fundraising positions for several groups like CARE International, MAP International, Make A Wish International and was the CEO of Hagar. Most recently, he completed a fundraising study for the National Peace Corps Association as a VP at Carlton & Co. His involvement promoting “World Community Service” programs led to receiving the most prestigious “Service Above Self” award from the Rotary International Foundation, and all three of his children would participate in Rotary’s “Youth Exchange” program. He is completing his own memoir, Different Latitudes: My Life in the Peace Corps and Beyond. Mark and his wife, Ligia, live in Scottsdale, Arizona close to their three children and six grandchildren.