In this eloquent collection of essays--from the editor of the national bestseller Unholy Ghost: Writers on Depression--contributors reveal their experiences in caring for family through illness and death
Today, thirty million people look after frail family members in their own homes. This number will increase drastically over the next decade--as baby boomers tiptoe toward old age; as soldiers return home from war wounded, mentally and physically; as a growing number of Americans find themselves caught between the needs of elderly parents and young children; as medical advances extend lives and health insurance fails to cover them. This compelling book offers both literary solace and guidance to the people who find themselves witness to--and participants in--the fading lives of their intimates.
Some of the country's most accomplished writers offer frank insights and revelations about this complex relationship. Julia Glass describes the tension between giving care--to her two young sons--and needing care after being diagnosed with breast cancer; Ann Harleman explores her decision to place her husband in an institution; Sam Lipsyte alternates between dark humor and profound understanding in telling the story of his mother's battle with cancer; Ann Hood wishes she'd had more time as a caregiver, to prepare herself for the loss of her daughter; Andrew Solomon examines the humbling experience of returning as an adult to be cared for by his father; cartoonist Stan Mack offers an illustrated piece about the humor and hell of making his way through the medical bureaucracy alongside his partner, Janet; Julia Alvarez writes about the competition between her and her three sisters to be the best daughter as they tend to their ailing parents. An Uncertain Inheritance examines the caregiving relationship from every angle--children caring for parents; parents caring for children; sib-lings, spouses, and close friends, all looking after one another--to reveal the pain, intimacy, and grace that take place in this meaningful connection.
Casey, a mental health journalist and editor (Unholy Ghost: Writers on Depression) has collected a remarkable array of mostly original essays by talented writers on being cared for themselves and caring for parents, children and spouses with illnesses as varied as depression and brain injuries. The writers have faced age-old dilemmas: for instance, novelist Julia Glass grapples with her own mortality and tries to raise two young children while undergoing chemotherapy for breast cancer. Other essays venture into more modern problems: Julia Alvarez and Anne Landsman both struggle to help parents who live in other countries. Many of the essays are beautiful and all are moving, but they are also relentless. The tales of cancer, multiple sclerosis and Alzheimer's start to blur together, no matter how artfully told. Sam Lipsyte's irreverent portrayal of caring for his mother as she died of breast cancer shortly after he kicked drug addiction provides welcome relief. He describes injecting his mother's medication: I tended to make a grand, nearly cinematic deal of flicking the bubbles away, as though to say, 'Now Mom, aren't you glad I was a junkie?' Other essays are less developed, and Andrew Solomon rehashes territory he covered in The Noonday Demon. Overall, the essays are well worth reading--just not all at once. (Nov. 13)
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-- PUBLISHERS WEEKLY.
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November 12, 2007
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