Beyond Recall.


160 pages
Contains Photos, Illustrations
ISBN 978-0-88922-505-3
DDC 759.11






Edited by Compiled and edited by Lise Weil
Reviewed by Kathy E. Zimon

Kathy E. Zimon is a fine arts librarian (emerita) at the University of
Calgary. She is the author of Alberta Society of Artists: The First 70
Years and co-editor of Art Documentation Bulletin of the Art Libraries
Society of North America.


Mary Meigs (1917–2002) was an American-born painter and writer who studied and taught English and creative writing at Bryn Mawr. She also studied art and exhibited in New York in the 1950s, and joined a Cape Cod artistic circle that included, among others, the abstract painter Mark Rothko. A relationship with author Barbara Deming and the Quebec writer Marie Claire Blais resulted in her settling in Montreal in 1976, where she lived for the rest of her life. In Canada she is best known for her autobiographical writings and her advocacy on behalf of feminist, lesbian, and seniors’ issues. She also participated in the 1990 Canadian docudrama The Company of Strangers and wrote a book about her experiences while making the film.


Her friend and editor Lise Weil first approached her to contribute to a book about aging. Instead, Weil edited her journal, written while Meigs was recovering from a stroke suffered in 1999. The journal entries in Beyond Recall cover the period from January 2, 2001 to November 12, 2002, only three days before her death on November 15.


The entries record the details of her housebound life, including an unsentimental cataloguing of the indignities of a failing body; her heightened sensual appreciation of the changing seasons and colours of her garden; her delight in the antics of her beloved cat; and the care she received from a large circle of volunteers whose ministrations allowed her to remain in familiar surroundings. Many of them came to Montreal for extended periods from the lesbian community at Sugarloaf Key in Florida, a social network whose support was critical at this stage of her life. Interspersed with the entries are whimsical pencil sketches of her cat embedded in, and surrounded by, the spidery script of the journal.


Meigs’s remarkably observant artist’s eye describes her shrinking world with precision, wonder, and gratitude for the awareness each day still brought. This book is an inspiring account of a lucid mind’s graceful accommodation of the unavoidable infirmities of age and illness.


Meigs, Mary., “Beyond Recall.,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed June 22, 2024,