This Is How You Live

Date of Award

January 2014

Degree Type

Closed Access Thesis

Document Type

Master Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Fine Arts (MFA)


English and Theatre

First Advisor

Derek Nikitas

Department Affiliation

English and Theatre

Second Advisor

Young Smith

Department Affiliation

English and Theatre

Third Advisor

Nancy Jensen

Department Affiliation

English and Theatre


The thesis is a novel entitled This Is How You Live. It is written in the first person and concerns primarily the narrator, Ethan, a cancer survivor and writer, and his marriage to his wife Beth as they vacation during the holidays in Key West to celebrate his recovery. The vacation is meant to be a time spent reacquainting with each other after a very turbulent few months. But this celebration never really gets off the ground, due to an encounter with a mysterious redhead, Audrey, on a snorkeling excursion. What unfolds is an entirely new struggle for Ethan as he deals with the repercussions from the surgery that saved his life, his deteriorating marriage, and the feelings he has developed for Audrey, an editor from Manhattan, who actually hides the fact she herself is also married to a marine biologist named Stan that joins Audrey in Key West from his great white shark research expedition in South Africa. At the center of this story is Herb, Beth's father. Retired now from the community foundation he used to oversee, he has financially supported this vacation to Key West. However, only Beth knows that Herb actually didn't retire, but lost his job, and is now putting pressure on Ethan and Beth to reimburse him for all the months that he financially took care of them while Ethan was sick with cancer. There are thousands of dollars in hospital bills, too, that have yet to be paid, and neither Ethan and Beth or Herb may have the funds to pay them. By the time their vacation is over, a day after New Year's, things have reached a climax, the result of which will decide Ethan and Beth's future.

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