Borrowed Time: An AIDS Memoir

ISBN: 0156005816
ISBN 13: 9780156005814
By: Paul Monette

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About this book

This "tender and lyrical" memoir (New York Times Book Review) remains one of the most compelling documents of the AIDS era-"searing, shattering, ultimately hope inspiring account of a great love story" (San Francisco Examiner). A National Book Critics Circle Award finalist and the winner of the PEN Center West literary award.

Reader's Thoughts


Not a book for the faint of heart. This is a lyrical, heartbreaking and powerful look at one couple's battle and one half's eventual demise from AIDS as it was just coming into the national conscious. The amount of suffering and loss Paul and Roger experienced both personally and among friends and family during the early-mid 80s is astounding, especially when it's remembered that at the time, this was still a disease that was not acknowledged by the government. My office was heavily involved with reporting of the first AIDS cases (though I was only a child when all this was happening), so it was interesting to read the stories presented in this memoir and relate them back to tales that I've heard from my co-workers from that time. Even though this is one man's account of the suffering, he did an excellent job of describing the dichotomy of terror and "head in the sand" mentality that could be seen in the gay community and eventually on the national stage. Be sure to have tissues handy, if not during the book, definitely at the end.


Paul Monette is furiously emotional. This book will induce tears throughout, especially at the book's close. Metaphor and simile are used without restraint and not always with justification. He seems in love with flourish. I found the story line (which can sometimes be frustratingly out of sync) to make up for the ornamented writing style. I had to relinquish the desire to recognize every friend and family member he mentions so that I could focus on the larger story, a story of grief, illness, and uncompromising love.


What a marvelous book this was in its day. I am sure that if one looked they could find a better one. He was so brave to let us all look at his life and illness. I have lost so many friends and this book helped me in so many ways to help adjust to all the death around me. I would recommend this book to anyone who has lost/losing a love one to this disease even if it isnt immenent.


This is a hard read. It's about a tough subject matter, and it's also now a book that is of a somewhat historical nature. I loved it and found it touching and it was enlightening in that it really gives an accurate and detailed portrayal of a gay relationship, the begining of the AIDS crisis and what it was like then to try and survive the disease. The author is now himself passed in 1995- it is amazing to have this account of one couple's fight at a time when social services were non-existant and the stigma about HIV was perhaps at it's height. Still the couple is quite lucky to have two sets of surviving and enlightened parents and family and friends to rely on. i can't imagine the person, and there were are are many, who had no support system at at time like this. The writer also admits freely they were privileged to have connections to drugs and doctors and resources because of their friendships and their positions. Which again, makes it all more clear why even today we need to have social services available for those who are not that lucky. My only complaints about this book was the level of detail about things like what they were reading and the smart-snobery of the couple-but that is just a matter of my taste, and really also helps flesh out who they were- intellectuals, educated at harvard and yale, and living in a insular world they had created with intelligent and creative friends. Overall- if you are looking for a history of the epidemic told through memoir this is as good as it gets. The shock is not so much about what they endured for me, but what people living with HIV are still enduring over 20 years later.


I read this book sometime before 1989. At the time I didn't know anything about AIDS other then a huge fear about getting it.This was one of the saddest books I ever remember reading. Borrowed Time: An AIDS Memoir by Paul MonetteMy rating: 5 of 5 starsView all my reviews


"Besides, courage doesn't precede action. The action releases it, like endorphins in a marathon runner." (p. 108)"It's not an accident, I think, that neither of us came out to our families until we found each other. Alone it is hard to want to face the barrage of cliches, and the closet is so much easier. But you can't go on very long hearing your heart's deepest core called your roommate." (p. 161)"We still had a feel for loftiness, and there was only one way to go: onward." (p. 194)"Good days are such a mysterious gift that you dare not question them much, and the only problem is they give you a false sense of security." (p. 202)"Craig's mother cut him off one night as he complained about the blood tests and the circular doctors' appointments: 'Listen, this whole thing is your own fault. I don't really want to hear about it.' That turns out to be rather mild, and at least it's honest. The real hell is the family sitting in green suburbia while the wasting son shuttles from friend to friend in a distant place, unembraced and disowned until the will is ready to be contested. And even that is to be preferred to the worst of all, being deported back to the flat earth of a rural fundamentalist family, who spit their hate with folded hands, transfigured by the justice of their bumper-sticker God." (p. 205)"today we were up at Will Rogers [State Park] in this aching sunny weather, & we ate on the lawn & then took a walk & watched 3 horses crop a hill pasture & we sat on a log & had this nodding acquaintance with what a moment is." (p. 237)"Always for the two of us the window on the sublime was the eye in nature or the eye in art, a seeing refined by twelve years of wilderness and museums, till we saw certain things exactly the same." (p. 262)"when you do this part you come to see there's something nearly sacred--a word I can't get the God out of, I know--about being a wound dresser. To be that intimate with flesh and blood, so close to the body's ache to heal, you learn how little to take for granted, defying death in the bargain. You are an instrument, and your engine is concentration. There's not a lot of room for ego when you're swabbing the open wound of the eye." (p. 263)"Intolerance, of course, is common law in America." (p. 271)"It must have been around then that Roger said, with a pained wistfulness, 'If only it could stay like this for a while.' A while is the kind of modest goal you spend your life searching for." (p. 277)"If later on, as we read this, we might think, 'How happy we were then!' at least we'll have that. That as we lived them, these moments, we knew they were important, and that's all there is." (p. 285)

Terri Jacobson

This is a memoir written by a gay man whose partner contracted AIDS very early in the epidemic. It's a truly moving piece of literature and is very well-written. I was a hospice nurse in the early 80s when these events take place, and I remember how little was known and how fierce some people reacted to the gay community. At it's heart, this book is a true love story. These men were partners in every sense of the word. The book is emotionally searing and profoundly moving. An exceptional reading experience.


I liked this book. It really gave an intimate look into living with AIDS in the '80s.


I bought this from a search I ran on for memiors concerning AIDS.Wow. The writing was poignant and full of raw truth. It was not over indulgent in the writing, which is so easy for a talented author to do in a memior. As one would expect, it was loaded with sadness, but there were so many instances of light moments and memories that balanced the emotional tone of the work. It didn't push away heterosexual readers or people who haven't faced AIDS head on. I know it's hokey, but I felt as if I knew Paul and Roger both, and I felt some grief knowing that one died when I was in middle school and the other when I was in kindergarten. And the memoir captured the fright of the early days of the AIDS pandemic. I never knew until I read this. The details rocked me. I remember thinking to myself on how I wouldn't be able to recall such details about my life or my husband's life for such a book. I admire Monette's ability to comb it all together so beautifully.I think people should read this book. It delves into what love, real love, is, and it taps into the tunnels of fear we all have on the subject of losing our partners. It makes me appreciate my life and all that is still possible in it. It makes me angry at those who called it a "gay cancer" and thought it was God taking out the trash. How could they think that about people? What I like most is all that this book has stirred up in me. I revel in the awareness it's given me. The author wrote other books, but I don't know if I will read them.


This book was worth every heart-breaking sentence. I realize that it could not have been even a fraction as difficult (emotionally) to read as it must have been for Monette to write. I can only thank him for doing so. -----------Select Quotes:Just fifteen months between Roger's beginning suramin treatment and me on ribavirin. Now we know that stride could have been made in '82 or '83 if the government hadn't been playing ostrich. Spilled milk, people tell me; you can't undo the past. But can't we measure the spill? (p. 119)A man ought to be free to find his reason. Not that freedom alone will serve it up: it requires the gods' own fury of luck to get two people to meet. But when it finally happens, two men in love can't rejoice out loud--joy of the very thing everyone burns for--without bracing for the rant of prophets, the schoolyard bully, and Rome's "intrinsic evil." I try to remember that we fight as a ragged people to outlast the calamity so that others can sleep as safe as my friend and I, like a raft in the tempest (p. 125) You prove you are still alive in the smallest gestures (p. 214)Loss teaches you very fast what cannot go without saying (p. 227)


When I first began reading this book, I though "oh God, is this memoir going to be this depressing the whole way through?" It was.. but it got increasingly better. I initially felt it was overly cerebral for an AIDS memoir (that sounds terrible..) and a tad over-dramatic, but it comes together gracefully, powerfully, and lovingly. I felt there was a certain level of self-martyrdom in Paul's account of Roger's illness, but became convinced it was a memoir written purely for the honor of Roger's memory when Monette ended the novel without addressing his own issues with the virus. I'd only recommend this to certain people. The ones who are compassionate and patient.


this book was incredibly sad and powerful. Paul Monette is an incredible writer – he has a way with words and writes with such sensitivity and power. In Borrowed Time we read the story of a man who watches his partner die slowly from AIDS. All the while knowing that he himself has tested positive for the virus and his own days are numbered. The story captures what it was like to be gay man in the early 80s – watching so many of your friends and loved ones die and suffer. it also captured the frustration of being unable to find the right medications, since so many were caught up in clinical trials, and anguish of the lack of coverage of the disease. People were dying left and right in the world seem to be ignoring it. What a terrible time –It is devastating to think about.through the book, we realize the gay people are no different from straight people – they love their friends and family members and partners just as much. It's easy to put yourself into the story and imagine what it would be like to live through everything that Monette lives through Many times, the book brought tears to my eyes.

Holly Procida

I don't think it is too much of a spoiler to reveal that Paul Monette's life partner dies at the end of the story. I got interrupted during the last few pages and had to put down the book for a day or two. I felt like I was abandoning Roger at his moment of death. Alas, he was still hanging in there when I went back to read those last few pages. AND he actually died about 30 years ago. But the writing in this memoir kept me right in the moment. I am reading another treatise on death Mortality and the point of both is, all you really have is this moment. My health is totally fine for all concerns friends... I just go off into little themed tangents here and there. Many of Paul's points reminded me of feelings and events during the very end of my Grandmother's life. Writing about someone is the blessing of immortalizing them. Paul gave that nice gift to his partner.

Bev Wall

What can I say about this book. Hmmmm! I liked it OK, but I wasn't in love with it. Borrowed Time is a first-person account of AIDS. Roger and the author, Paul Monette were lovers and Roger contracted AIDS. The story is about the 2 years that he suffered with AIDS before he died. It is basically a love story that is very detailed (and not necessarily richly), and tells a story about two gay men and the world they lived in in the 1980's. Sorry, but I couldn't finish this book - it was 342 pages of constant whining.


I couldn’t believe this was the very first memoir about living with (and in this case, dying from) AIDS. It is also the definitive memoir on the subject. I truly believe this should be mandatory reading for high schoolers, as any sexuality is only implicit and the perspective is invaluable. Monette eloquently pinpoints the effects of homophobia on the out-of-control AIDS crisis in the 1980s, showing how ignoring the problem and pretending it is restricted to an underclass of society can damage every part of that society. This memoir is sophisticated yet unpretentious, tragic but not self-pitying. Simply put: incredible.

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