What Luck Means Now | With Jacki Weaver

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What does luck mean to you? And how does that change depending on your circumstances? That's what Joyce Maynard writes about in this week's essay.

It's read by Jacki Weaver, who's been nominated for Academy Awards for her work in "Silver Linings Playbook" and "Animal Kingdom." You can see Jacki this summer in the new series “Perpetual Grace, LTD" on Epix.

Where Are They Now?

Jim's Whipple procedure was in the summer of 2015. And for some time, it felt like a victory for both Jim and Joyce.

"There was this joyful, triumphant moment when Jim emerged from the surgery, and the surgeon said to us, ‘This was a success, this was a great surgery,’" Joyce says. "A success for the surgeon in this case was very different than a success for the patient. He did a really good job. And we were euphoric."

But that wasn’t the end of the story.

"My husband was not really out of pain from that moment on," she continues. "We went back home to California, and did all the things that you do, had more chemo. But the cancer came back. And a year and a week from the date of the surgery, in our bed at home, Jim took his last breath."

"I don't need to say that a diagnosis of a cancer like this is spectacularly bad luck," Joyce says. "But having said that, I feel so lucky to have had him in my life, and even to have walked this path. I knew him, and he knew me, and some of us go through our whole lives not being known. And I carry that with me. It's a huge gift."

Joyce says that after Jim died, she started thinking more about how to spend her own remaining time. One of her regrets was dropping out of college — a decision she had made not long after writing a long piece for The New York Times Magazine in 1972. It was called "An 18-Year-Old Looks Back on Life," and the issue was published with Joyce's photo on the cover.

"From that moment on my life changed," she says. "Within a day there were a thousand pieces of mail delivered to my Yale dormitory room. And among those letters was one completely different from all the others, which was a letter basically saying, 'I have a lot of affection for that piece that you wrote, I think you’re a real writer. I know a thing or two about the perils of early success, and I urge you to be careful — you will be exploited.' And the letter was signed by J.D. Salinger."

Joyce and Salinger, the famous, reclusive author of "The Catcher in the Rye," started writing to one another. Not long after, she gave up her scholarship to Yale to go and live with him in New Hampshire. He was 35 years older than she was.

"I didn’t know what being in love was. I had never been in love," Joyce says. "What it was for me was a religion. I was his follower, and whatever he said, I believed I must do. It was an extremely painful year. And ultimately, about a year after he’d first written to me, he sent me away in a pretty painful way."

That relationship ended, and Joyce went on to write more than a dozen books, marry, and have three children. And she says that despite her regret over leaving Yale, she never thought she would go back.

"I was carrying on with my life, I was working very hard, I was putting three children through college. And then Jim died," she says. "And suddenly this thing that had seemed so far-fetched and unimaginable seemed like a real possibility."

"So coming back to Yale forty-seven years later was hugely symbolic for me. I had unfinished business, and it was honoring my own dreams, my own goals, and being my own person, not fashioning myself into who a man, however great, told me I should be."

Joyce is a rising junior now, and she spends a lot of time biking through campus in New Haven.

"I ride past the Yale Law School every day. And it is a moment when I sometimes speak aloud to my husband, and just say, 'Oh, Jimmy, look at me now. How I wish you were here.'"

Voices in this Episode

Courtesy Jacki Weaver
Courtesy Jacki Weaver

Jacki Weaver is an acclaimed Australian theater, film and television actress well known internationally for her talent that spans over 50 years.

Weaver can next be seen starring in "Poms" alongside Diane Keaton and directed by Zara Hayes, which follows a group of women forming a cheerleading squad at their retirement community. Also upcoming, Weaver will be seen in Nicolas Pesce’s "The Grudge" opposite Andrea Riseborough, Hernan Jimenez’s "Elsewhere" with Parker Posey and Beau Bridges and James Franco’s "Zeroville." Lastly, she is set to star in the independent feature "Stage Mother," alongside Lucy Liu.

Most recently, Weaver was seen in Netflix’s "Birdbox" opposite Sandra Bullock and John Malkovich. She also recently appeared in the Steve McQueen’s thriller "Widows" opposite Viola Davis, Liam Neeson and Colin Farrell, Maya Forbes’ "The Polka King" opposite Jack Black as well as Stephanie Laing’s romantic drama Irreplaceable You. Jacki can also be seen in Ben Falcone’s comedy "Life Of The Party" as Melissa McCarthy’s mother.

Weaver is best known for her performance in David Michôd’s "Animal Kingdom," for which she was nominated in 2011 for an Academy Award, a Golden Globe and a Critics’ Choice Award in the category of Best Supporting Actress. She also received an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actress in David O. Russell’s "Silver Linings Playbook," co-starring alongside Jennifer Lawrence, Bradley Cooper and Robert De Niro.

On the small screen, Weaver will next be seen as Lillian in the noir drama series, "Perpetual Grace, LTD." The series follows Lillian and Pastor Byron Brown (Ben Kingsley), known as Pa and Ma, who are using religion to bilk hundreds of innocent people out of their life savings. MGM will premiere the series on June 2nd, 2019. Additionally, Weaver will be starring in Sony Pictures’ six-part sci-fi series "Bloom" opposite Phoebe Tonkin, Bryan Brown and Nikki Shields.

She has starred in more than 100 plays in Australian theatre, including iconic plays "A Streetcar Named Desire," "Last of the Red Hot Lovers," "Death of a Salesman" and most recently, a Sydney stage production of Anton Chekhov’s "Uncle Vanya," alongside Cate Blanchett.

Joyce Maynard (Credit: Jim Barringer)
Joyce Maynard (Credit: Jim Barringer)

Joyce Maynard is the author of seventeen books, including the New York Times bestselling novel, "Labor Day," "To Die For" and the memoir, "At Home in the World." Her most recent memoir, "The Best of Us," tells the story of finding and losing her second husband.

Maynard is a fellow of the MacDowell Colony and Yaddo. Last year she returned to college, and will be entering her junior year at Yale this fall. Her website is

Headshot of Caitlin O'Keefe

Caitlin O'Keefe Producer, Podcasts & New Programs
Caitlin O'Keefe was a producer of podcasts and new programming at WBUR.



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