Spoiler Alert: The Hero Dies Review
Author: Michael Ausiello
Genre: Biographies & Memoir, LGBTQ
Publisher: Atria Books
A review by Samantha Pearson
I have to be upfront: going into Spoiler Alert: The Hero Dies, I was weary. This trepidation had nothing to do with the author; I’ve been a fan of Michael Ausiello for years. His love of Veronica Mars and championing of the show first put him on my radar over a decade ago. That being said, it never occurred to me to take interest in his personal life. When I heard he had a memoir coming out, one detailing the loss of his late husband to cancer, I was curious. I was also terrified. Reading tragic stories — especially true ones — usually reduces me to a blubbery mess. For that reason, I generally try to avoid them.
But the pull of Ausiello’s writing, which has made me feel every emotion on the spectrum since I read my first-ever “Ask Ausiello” column way back when, was too great. I received an advanced reading copy of Spoiler Alert: The Hero Dies through NetGalley. Buoyed by the semi-playful title (a delightful homage to Ausiello’s TV-writing career), as well as the cartoonish cover, I hoped this book wouldn’t break me down.
As you can probably guess, it utterly destroyed me.
At first, it didn’t. Ausiello’s writing, even in this format, is peppered with pop culture references. He blithely discusses his Smurf collection, his ridiculous cat, and his late husband Kit Cowan’s sassiness. Dark humor permeates even the most heartbreaking updates to Cowan’s condition, as a rare and aggressive form of neuroendocrine cancer breaks his body down. The bemused, bordering-on-apathetic personality Ausiello presents in his on-camera interviews is very much alive and well in Spoiler Alert.
However, as the book progresses — bouncing between Cowan’s fight with cancer and earlier memories of his and Ausiello’s 13-year courtship — a deep sadness slowly permeates the text. Spoiler Alert: The Hero Dies reduced me to tears more than once. I had to take frequent breaks, overwhelmed by the level of emotion in the writing. And when Mr. Scooch, the couple’s cat, appeared to say his final goodbyes? Forget it. I was a mess.
Ausiello’s writing strengthens as he tells his story, which makes it all the more heartbreaking. His writing is often glib and easy to digest, but the content itself is harder to swallow. Part of me feared, going into this book, that reading about the death of a loved one through his widower’s eyes would feel voyeuristic. Instead, it was just devastating.
Ausiello doesn’t shy away from the messiness a 13-year relationship involves. He candidly discusses the relationship issues he and Cowan faced, but there’s never a sense that they didn’t love each other, full stop. There’s never a sense that this relationship wasn’t life-changing, in all the ways that finding and loving your soulmate can be. You feel every inch of Ausiello’s heartbreak, as he and Cowan struggle to grapple with a reality where one of them dies in his early 40s. It sucks. There’s no ifs, ands, or buts about that.
Somehow, in the midst of all of that, there’s hope and inspiration. There’s also a deep, aching need to hold your loved ones as close as you can once you finish reading. Maybe even while you read.
Buy it. Spoiler Alert: The Hero Dies gives away its ending in the title. At the end of the book, Kit Cowan is dead, Michael Ausiello is grieving, and everything hurts. But the writing is good, and the love story Ausiello weaves is beautiful. It’s messy. It’s complicated. This book runs the emotional gambit, and it’s worth it. The surprise final chapter is especially good, though it’s incredibly bittersweet. I highly recommend this book, to anyone and everyone.