Book Review: Spoiler Alert: The Hero Dies

In this evocative and gorgeously wrought memoir reminiscent of Rob Sheffield’s Love Is a Mixtape and George Hodgman’s Bettyville, Michael Ausiello—a respected TV columnist and co-founder of TVLine.com—remembers his late husband, and the lessons, love, and laughter that they shared throughout their fourteen years together.

For the past decade, TV fans of all stripes have counted upon Michael Ausiello’s insider knowledge to get the scoop on their favorite shows and stars. From his time at Soaps in Depth and Entertainment Tonight to his influential stints at TV Guide and Entertainment Weekly to his current role as co-founder of the wildly popular website TVLine.com, Michael has established himself as the go-to expert when it comes to our most popular form of entertainment.

What many of his fans don’t know, however, is that while his professional life was in full swing, Michael had to endure the greatest of personal tragedies: his longtime boyfriend, Kit Cowan, was diagnosed with a rare and very aggressive form of neuroendrocrine cancer. Over the course of eleven months, Kit and Michael did their best to combat the deadly disease, but Kit succumbed to his illness in February 2015.

In this heartbreaking and darkly hilarious memoir, Michael tells the story of his harrowing and challenging last year with Kit while revisiting the thirteen years that preceded it, and how the undeniably powerful bond between him and Kit carried them through all manner of difficulty—always with laughter front and center in their relationship. Instead of a tale of sadness and loss, Spoiler Alert: The Hero Dies is an unforgettable, inspiring, and beautiful testament to the resilience and strength of true love.

As an occasionally obsessed TV fan, I’ve been familiar with Michael Ausiello’s writing career for years. I avidly followed his “Ausiello Report” for scoops and spoilers on my favorite shows, enjoyed his fanboy goofiness and funny interludes, his Smurf obsessions, and his super witty writing style. When I saw that he had a book coming out this fall, I naturally assumed this might be a collection of his TV writing.

Spoiler alert: It’s not.

Spoiler Alert: The Hero Dies is a personal, painful, inspiring, heart-warming, and heart-breaking love story — Ausiello’s up-close memoir of the loss of his husband Kit after a short and intense battle with a devastating form of cancer.

Michael and Kit spent 13 years of their lives together, but this isn’t a sugar-coated fairy-tale version of perfect love and romance. Instead, it’s a warts-and-all look at a real relationship, filled with ups and downs, anger, laughter, challenges, and almost-breakups. It’s clear that Michael and Kit had an instant chemistry and loved each other deeply and passionately, but Ausiello doesn’t shy away from describing the less euphoric points of their relationship as well, such as Kit’s infidelities and Michael’s drinking.

Kit goes from strong, healthy and vital to a cancer patient in practically the blink of an eye. It’s wrenching to see Kit’s discomfort as it grows into pain, to see Michael’s helplessness at not being able to rescue the person he loves most in the world, and the growing realization that Kit is facing a death sentence, and quickly. And yet, there are moments of joy and beauty. Although they’d never considered marriage for themselves before, they practically turn the city upside down in a quest to get married before Kit starts chemo, and it’s funny and sweet and lovely.

I can’t say enough good things about this book, although I suppose I should warn readers that you’ll need heaps of Kleenex at the ready. The book has a lot of humor, for a book about cancer, and Michael and Kit themselves are funny people. I loved reading about their romance, their pet names for one another, all the silly little things that make up a life, and cried myself into a messy puddle as Kit weakened and they prepared themselves for loss.

Michael and Kit clearly had something special, and I appreciate how much of himself Michael was willing to share in putting together this lovely tribute to the man he loved. It’s practically a cliché to describe a book as a love letter to a person or place — but it’s just so apt in this case. Spoiler Alert: The Hero Dies is absolutely a love letter to Kit — funny, sweet, and utterly romantic, and so very tragic.

I so admire Michael Ausiello’s honesty and emotional openness in writing this book, and although I didn’t previously know anything about him except his professional persona, I do feel invested now in wishing him a life of happiness. Kit was clearly an incredibly special person, and I’m happy to have gotten to know him through this book.

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The details:

Title: Spoiler Alert: The Hero Dies
Author: Michael Ausiello
Publisher: Atria Books
Publication date: September 12, 2017
Length: 320 pages
Genre: Memoir
Source: Review copy courtesy of the publisher via NetGalley

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