The Third and Only Way

Reflections on Staying Alive

The Third and Only Way

Book Pages: 224 Illustrations: Published: October 1996

Author: Helen Bevington

General Interest > Biography, Letters, Memoirs

In this autobiographical volume, the remarkable Helen Bevington looks for answers to the question of how to live or, more specifically, how to confront growing older. A familiar face on the literary landscape since the mid-1940s, Bevington contemplates the course of her own life in view of the suicide of her father, the final years her mother spent in unwilling solitude, and the tragic suicide of her son following a crippling automobile accident from which he could never recover. How is one to face the inevitability of death? What is the third alternative? How to persevere in life?
The unique Bevington way of autobiography recreates lessons and insights of other lives, historical figures, and compelling incidents, and combines them in a narrative that follows the emotional currents of her life. Evoking a wide range of historical and literary figures, including Chekhov, Marcus Aurelius, Flannery O’Connor, Simone de Beauvoir, Thoreau, Beatrix Potter, Sappho, Yeats, Alexander the Great, Montaigne, Saint Cecilia, Virginia Woolf, Liv Ullmann, and many others, Bevington finds in these lives a path that has guided her search away from solitude. Through her reflections on the ten years that followed her son’s death, we become aware of how far she has traveled, how the search has brightened, how she has eloquently evolved into old age. In the end she is sitting, like the Buddha, under her own fig tree, waiting not for death but for further illumination.
An original contemplation of the universal dilemmas and tragedies of existence, The Third and Only Way is at once warm, funny, and inspiring—full of learning and wisdom.


“Bevington confronts the challenge of accepting aging and the loss of loved ones without succombing to desolation or suicide.” — Wendy Martin, New York Times Book Review

The Third and Only Way considers subjects that are not often enough written about, particularly by someone as eloquent as Helen Bevington. I value her wisdom and learning, her endless curiosity, and the beautiful clarity with which she writes.” — David Guy, author of The Autobiography of My Body

The Third and Only Way is one of the most enjoyable books I’ve read in a long time. Its patience with the reader, tone of cultivation and passion, breadth of learning and experience, and occasional breathtaking turns of phrase remind me of Isak Dinesen’s Out of Africa and some of Annie Dillard’s nonfiction.” — William Harmon, author of The Top 500 Poems


Availability: In stock
Price: $44.95

Open Access