I am a big Superman fan. I’ve seen all the movies, read a ton of comics and graphic novels, and own several action figures and tee shirts, too. Naturally, I became a fan of Christopher Reeve, who starred in the four movies in the late seventies and eighties. While Reeve will forever be linked to his role as the Man of Steel, his career continued — with varying degrees of success — in such films as Somewhere in Time and The Remains of the Day. Of course, I was shocked and saddened along with the rest of the world to learn of Chris’ paralyzing horse riding accident in 1995. But, I was also impressed with his efforts to recover and spread the word about spinal cord injuries, paralysis, and new research opportunities. Equally impressive is that he continued his acting career in a remake of the Hitchcock classic Rear Window and with a role on the television show Smallville. I also read, loved, and highly recommend Reeve’s autobiography, written while recovering from the accident, Still Me.
These roles and events may be what we know and admire Chris for, but they barely scratch the surface of who he really was. Andersen’s book does a marvelous job telling the reader about Christopher and Dana Reeve’s lives away from the cameras, as well as in front of them. How Christopher, a graduate of Julliard and a huge star after Superman, returned to Williamstown, MA each summer for the annual theater festival to continue working on his craft. It was there that he met Dana, a singer and actress, who turned out to be the love of his life. Their courtship is a touching tale, especially considering the complications of Chris’s celebrity, his children from a previous relationship, and his deep-seated fear of marriage.
No great love story is as simple as falling in love and living happily ever after. In addition to Chris’s fear of marriage, their individual careers, the complications of a blended family, and the horrible accident that robbed Reeve of his ability to move below his neck were some of the bigger challenges they faced. Friends, family, and even Dana herself said that what happened to Chris took them way beyond the vows of “in sickness and in health.” She was a tireless caregiver to Chris, while also raising their son, Will, helping with Christopher’s charity work, especially the Christopher Reeve Paralysis Foundation, and pursuing her own career. Their love story had a doubly tragic end. Not only did Chris die of cardiac arrest in October of 2004, but just a year later Dana, a non-smoker, was diagnosed with lung cancer and died in 2006.
What made this true story even better than Andersen’s talent as a biographer is the fact that the audio book is narrated by actor, and close friend of the Reeve’s, Edward Herrmann. Whether or not you are a fan of Superman, if you want to read (or listen to) a great American love story, try the aptly named Somewhere in Heaven.