‘Under This Beautiful Dome’ by Terry Mutchler

I came across this book a while ago and this review will go up before the book is even officially published. ‘Under This Beautiful Dome’ is the memoir of former award winning journalist for the AP who then became a lawyer. It talks about Terry Mutchler’s life with Illinois Senator Penny Severns.

Source: Goodreads

Both women had a five year relationship back in the 90s when it wasn’t as easy to come out publicly, especially if you were working in politics, even more so though, if you fell in love with your source as it was the case for Terry who was a reporter for the AP when she met Penny. That’s a whole different ballgame and one they only resolved after years when Terry resigned from her position and went to law school.

During their relationship, Penny got breast cancer and later died of the illness which in itself is enough to pull on your heartstrings, I think. It’s only made worse by the fact that they were hiding their relationship, even from their families and friends and they also could not get married or enter a domestic partnership so Terry had no claim to Penny’s estate or anything after Penny’s death which is just devastating. I guess, those things just hurt more deeply for me because the last part has been the reality for a lot of homosexuals back then and even is today though our situations have vastly improved. It’s sill not perfect, but much better. I can easily imagine myself in that situation and it just hurts.

I read most of this book while being on the road, first on my way to and from Paris and then London. Especially the London part was hard because I was trapped on a plane without tissues while I read about Penny’s death and tried desperately not to cry because that would have looked so weird. I only got through it by looking out of the window every few sentences because this all hit too close to home. I will never be able to read a cancer story and not have it feel personal to me anymore. That’s just the way it is once a family member dies of that disease. So this story was double personal to me.

My experience with taking care of my dying mother was vastly different to that one in the story though. I don’t understand how Terry managed to do all the things she did, I hardly got through my studies that last year whereas she ran a national political campaign, started law school and also took care of the love of her life. That’s a lot!! But both women were also acutely unaware of how sick Penny really was until it was too late.

I feel grateful that I got to read this story though because it is honest albeit brutal. It pulls at your heartstrings but I also couldn’t put the story down. You could tell that Terry Mutchler actually earned her living through writing because the woman knows how to put words into sentences. Having bitten down the tears in the last third of the book, I was a sobbing mess after the last chapter. It all was too much but it was such a great read and I think this was the best book I read in 2014 so far.

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