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Monday, February 20, 2017

Crystal Otto Reviews Shirley Melis's "Banged-Up Heart" for WOW! Women on Writing

Thank you to WOW! Women on Writing and Mari from Artotems as well as Shirley Melis. Without these amazing friends this lovely post would not be possible!


Banged-Up Heart: Dancing with Love and Loss

Review by Crystal J. Casavant-Otto

Banged-Up Heart is a great memoir for the non-memoir-loving reader. It reads like a novel. The only difference being you pretty much know the outcome before you crack the spine of the book. So what makes you want to read the book? Why would I recommend it and give it 5 stars?

Let me ask you this. Did you know Custer's Last Stand ended? Or better yet, have you ever visited Arlington Cemetery and looked at one of the really large ornate stones? Right there you have examples of knowing how something began and how something ended - but were you satisfied with that? Didn't you want to know more? After all, life isn't about the destination, it's about the journey. We all have a starting point and an ending point whether we've gotten there yet, or's the circle of life. What we do with the time in the middle is what leaves it's mark on others.

Shirley Melis's "Banged-Up Heart" is no different. She hasn't yet reached her ending point, and I hope there will be more books between now and then, but as far as how she managed to dance through love and loss, it's truly remarkable. It's not how I would have handled things, but if it were, then there wouldn't be a story to tell. That's what's fun about reading a memoir that reads like a novel - you get to experience things through the eyes and hearts of others. Melis's ability to forge ahead and dance is remarkable and quite admirable. Whether you've had a Joe in your life or a John - or you've experienced love once or many times, you'll want to pick up a copy of "Banged-Up Heart". Even if you've never been in love, this book will help you believe in love. It's beautifully written, honest, laughable at points, well edited, and a bit unconventional, yet it's a book you'll devour and that will stick in your heart long after you've finished the final page.

Paperback: 300 Pages
Genre: Memoir/Non Fiction
Publisher: Terra Nova Books (February 14, 2017)
ISBN-10: 193828870X
ISBN-13: 978-1938288708

Banged-Up Heart: Dancing with Love and Loss is available in print on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and IndieBound.


Banged-Up Heart: Dancing with Love and Loss is an intimate and clear-eyed account of finding love late and losing it early—and of the strength it takes to fall deeply in love a second time, be forced to relinquish that love too soon, and yet choose to love again.

When her husband of thirty years dies suddenly, Shirley Melis is convinced she will never find another man like Joe. Then she meets John, a younger man who tells her during their first conversation that he has lived for many years with a rare but manageable cancer. She is swept off her feet in a whirlwind courtship, and within months, made brave by the early death of a friend’s husband, she asks him to marry her! What follows is a year-long odyssey of travel and a growing erotic and creative partnership— until a mysterious bump on John’s forehead proves to be one of several tumors in his brain and spine.

The nine months that follow are filled with a life-threatening infection, three brain surgeries, radiation, and chemotherapy. Two years and one week after their wedding, John dies at the age of fifty-nine. More than just a love story or a memoir of mourning, Banged-Up Heart comes down solidly on the side of life. It takes you deep inside an ordinary woman, her deeply felt grief butting up against her desire for more than companionship: passion, sexual fulfillment, and self-realization. It bears eloquent witness to the wild trust it takes to fall madly in love and risk profound loss—a second time. Ultimately, it shows that it is possible to dance with a banged-up heart.

About Shirley

Shirley Melis is a longtime business writer, travel writer, and newspaper columnist who traveled the world interviewing everyone from busboys to heads of international organizations before launching a career in public relations in Washington, D.C. With Banged-Up Heart, she now takes her writing in a new direction, delving deeply into her own personal story of finding love late, losing it early, and discovering the strength to choose to love again. It is a fascinating odyssey, a journey both creative and erotic as Shirley and John work lovingly together to blend their dreams—until a mysterious bump on his forehead starts them on a tragic struggle against the dark hand of fate.

A graduate of Vassar, Shirley Melis has created an intimate memoir bearing eloquent witness to the kind of wild trust that can grow in the heart of an ordinary woman thrust into circumstances that few others must face. Now retired, she lives in Galisteo, New Mexico.

Shirley can also be found online at:




Thank you to WOW! Women on Writing for allowing me an opportunity to participate in this book blog tour!

Be sure to check out some of the future blog stops on this tour:

Feb 21 @ Deb Blanchard
Teacher Deb Blanchard gives insight into "Banged Up Heart" the touching memoir by Shirley Melis.

Feb 22 @ Bring on Lemons with Angela Williams
Angela Williams reviews Shirley Melis's Banged Up Heart.

Feb 23 @ Linda Appleman Shapiro
Don't miss today's interview between memoirist Linda Appleman Shapiro and Shirley Melis. Find out more about Melis and her memoir Banged Up Heart.

Feb 23 @ Writer’s Pay it Forward
MC Simon interviews Shirley Melis about her novel Banged Up Heart for readers at Writers Pay it Forward. Don't miss this courageous memoir.

Feb 24 @ Memoir Writers Journey with Kathleen Pooler
Kathleen Pooler shares her thoughts with readers of Memoir Writer's Journey - find out what Pooler has to say about Shirley Melis's memoir Banged Up Heart.

Feb 27 @ Bring on Lemons with Cathy Hansen
Educator and Entrepreneur Cathy Hansen reads and reviews Banged Up Heart by Shirley Melis. You'll want to stop by Bring On Lemons today for your chance to learn more about this touching and encouraging memoir.

Feb 28 @ Bring on Lemons with Cindi Ashbeck
Cindi Ashbeck shares her thoughts after reading the touching story Banged Up Heart by Shirley Melis.

March 1 @ Bring on Lemons with Penny Harrison
Wisconsin business owner and avid reader Penny Harrison shares her thoughts and feelings about Shirley Melis's memoir Banged Up Heart.

March 2 @ Book Santa Fe with Tange Dudet
Avid reader and book enthusiast Tange Dudet shares her thoughts and feelings after reading the touching memoir Banged Up Heart by Shirley Melis.

March 3 @ The Constant Story with David W. Berner
Author and radio personality David W Berner reviews Shirley Melis's book Banged Up Heart and shares his thoughts with readers at The Constant Story.

Please feel free to leave a comment or ask a question - it's great hearing from YOU!

About today’s reviewer:

Crystal is a secretary and musician at her church, babywearing cloth diapering mama (aka crunchy mama), business owner, active journaler, writer and blogger, Blog Tour Manager with WOW! Women on Writing, Publicist with Dream of Things Publishing, Press Corp teammate for the DairyGirl Network, Unicorn Mom Ambassador, as well as a dairy farmer. She lives in Manitowoc County, Wisconsin with her husband, four young children (Carmen 9, Andre 8, Breccan 3, and Delphine 1), two dogs, two rabbits, four little piggies, a handful of cats and kittens, and over 230 Holsteins.

You can find Crystal riding unicorns, taking the ordinary and giving it a little extra (making it extraordinary), blogging and reviewing books, baby carriers, cloth diapers, and all sorts of other stuff here, and at WOW! Women on Writing.


  1. Crystal, thank you for your review of Banged-Up Heart for WOW! Women on Writing and for your five-star rating! Your comment about my memoir reading like a novel reminds me of a recent on-air interview when the broadcaster mistook my memoir for a novel. But a memoir it is.

    1. I'd love to hear the interview. Is it available online?