Moonlight in the Desert of Left Behind

A Journey of Love, Terminal Illness, and Hope

Non-Fiction - Memoir
322 Pages
Reviewed on 04/08/2017
Buy on Amazon

Author Biography

Jan Baumgartner was born near San Francisco CA, and for years lived on the coast of Maine. She is a writer and creative content book editor. Primarily a travel writer, she has worked as a grant writer for the non-profit sector in the fields of academia, AIDS, and wildlife conservation for NGO’s in the U.S. and Africa, comedy writer for live performance at Herbst Theater in S.F., and as a travel writer for The New York Times. Her work has been published online and in print, both nationally and abroad, ranging in such diverse topics as wildlife and nature, travel, humor/satire, Africa, and essays about her experience as a full time caregiver for her terminally ill husband. Her travel articles on Mexico have been widely published; two are included in anthologies. Since her husband’s death from ALS, and following her passion for travel, she has made solo trips to France, Italy, Mexico, the Bahamas, Turkey, Kenya and South Africa. She makes her home in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico.

    Book Review

Reviewed by Romuald Dzemo for Readers' Favorite

Moonlight in the Desert of Left Behind: A Journey of Love, Terminal Illness, and Hope by Jan Baumgartner is a spellbinding memoir, an emotionally charged story of survival and hope that will touch readers in subtle ways. They sold their home in San Francisco and moved to the coast in Maine, seeking a quieter way of life. But less than four years after getting settled in their new home, Jan Baumgartner’s husband, John, was diagnosed with the terminal illness amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, better known as ALS. It was the prime of their marriage and they were a young couple, just starting out in life. The news was devastating for both of them, and the author knew she’d spend her life as a caregiver to the man she loved. This is a powerful story that depicts what it takes to “stand in love” and it comes with wonderful lessons for the reader.

Jan Baumgartner’s memoir is a book that speaks about courage, love, sacrifice, and the power of connecting to things and persons we love. In a beautifully written work, the reader follows the author as she seeks answers, embraces her tough and challenging reality, and reaches out to give love even when she feels broken. It’s wonderful to see how she grows in faith and love, believing in the love she has for her husband and allowing that love to nourish and transform her. The narrative voice is powerful and it rings through with honesty. As the reader follows the author in her travels to the wilds of Africa, in her attention to her dying husband, and in the pain that awakens her heart, they feel invited to embrace their own humanity with courage. Moonlight in the Desert of Left Behind: A Journey of Love, Terminal Illness, and Hope will make readers cry and laugh at the same time. Here is what it feels like to live with a person with a terminal disease and the joys of embracing the experience.

Roxane Leaf

Moonlight in the Desert of Left Behind A journey of Love, Terminal Illness, and hope by Jan Baumgartner was a heartwarming memoir of Jan’s journey caring for her husband and her life after his death. John and Jan fell in love, married, and looked forward to traveling and spending the rest of their lives together. Unfortunately, a diagnosis with a terminal illness crushed that dream. Jan’s theme throughout the book is hope. It comes out in her tone, the title, and throughout her life after the diagnosis of John’s illness. Jan’s story isn’t just for the “widow’s club,” it’s not a book on “death and dying.” It could be considered not only a memoir but a travel guide as well. I could trace her journey on a map, look up the restaurants, and camps she stayed at each night. What I loved the most about this book was her description of the terrain, food, and people. I could almost see, feel, and taste the food on her adventures. I do wish there were some secondary material in the book like maps of her route in Africa, or a picture or two of her home in Maine or her favorite crow or hummingbird. I enjoyed this book, and I couldn’t put it down. I think it would make a beautiful movie. I can imagine the gorgeous cinematography of Africa, the beauty of the French countryside, or her home in Mexico. Jan writes that “we are dumbed by so much inconsequential entertainment news” so I suggest everyone buy a copy of this book and not only read a love story, become a couch adventurist, or maybe look at the big picture of loss not only in her life but loss and suffering throughout our world and what we can do to change what goes on in our lives and in this world of ours.