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If you’ve seen the movie You’ve Got Mail, you’ve had a taste of the Ephron sisters’ witty writing. The 1998 film, starring Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan, was cowritten by Delia Ephron and her older sister, Nora Ephron, who died in 2012 of acute myeloid leukemia (AML). The duo and their two other sisters, Hallie and Amy (also writers), were raised in Beverly Hills by parents who were screenwriters.
Now, Ephron, 77, has written a memoir, Left on Tenth: A Second Chance at Life, that covers just a few recent years, but what years they were — with enough highs and lows for a lifetime.
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She lost her first husband, Jerry Kass, a playwright and screenwriter and her “soul mate of 37 years,” to prostate cancer in 2015. Still mourning him a year later, she wrote an essay in The New York Times that caught the eye of Peter Rutter, a psychiatrist/Jungian psychoanalyst in the San Francisco Bay area, who emailed her (You’ve got email!). Turns out, she’d briefly dated him when she was 18, after they were introduced by Nora (he remembers loads of details, even meeting her parents, but she has no recollection of him, poor guy).
During a long-distance courtship, they quickly fell wildly in love — an experience she describes as “heady, giddy, exhilarating” (“Delia, je t’adore,” he’d email her). But in the midst of their blissful romance, Ephron was diagnosed with the same bone marrow disease that killed her beloved sister. She and Rutter were married in her hospital room, and he stayed by her side through an excruciating series of treatments, a stem cell transplant and a slow recovery.
We talked to Ephron about these emotionally wrenching years, what it was like to fall in love again in her 70s and how writing sustains her.