ALL GONE:A Memoir of My Mother’s Dementia, with Refreshments

all-gone-alex-witchel-author-photo1
ALEX WITCHEL

AKA: Life with Mother

Looking back Witchel can see that there was much foreshadowing of her mother’s dementiaAll Gone showcases a daughter’s unconditional love towards a mother who has forever been placed on a pedestal. Looking back Witchel can see that there was much foreshadowing of her mother’s dementia. Forgotten names, unusual anger. Her mother had been a professor of psychology.

When she was almost 70, this lifelong smoker and Type 2 diabetic started showing signs of mental slippage. Witchel, as the only child without young children (her two stepsons were grown), stepped in. CT scans showed evidence of strokes, the scar tissue from which was contributing to depression and “emotional incontinence.” For years after her mother’s diagnosis of stroke-related dementia, Witchel is a barely contained “muddle of anguish, anger, and self-pity.” She also writes about the comfort she’s found in her mother’s tried-and-true menu staples, and then includes these recipes in her book.  “Housewifery in the age of Betty Crocker.” Comfort food.

An interesting memoir especially for children of aging parents.

EVERY VISIBLE THING

LISA CAREYthing

Brookline parents Elizabeth and Henry Furey are shattered when their fifteen-year-old son Hugh inexplicably goes missing. Their other children Lena and Owen are forgotten in the catastrophe of Hugh. Visible tells the story of this dysfunctional family with warmth and grace. Mom goes into coma mode for three years and then decides to return to school for medicine. Dad sets up and organizes an incredible search for his missing son. Eventually he is let go from his college teaching job. The kids are left to fend for themselves. Lena goes punk, dresses like a boy in a search for her brother. Owen suffers serious bullying after his best friend’s mother catches the two boys in a compromising act.

Visible is a well written novel with lots to say about pain and family dynamics.

WILD: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Coast Trail

CHERYL STAYEDcheryl-strayed-10_2455457b

When  Cheryl Strayed loses her young mother to lung cancer, her life veers  into a downward spiral leading to the break up of her family, promiscuity and heroin addiction. Surveying the wreckage of her life at the age of 26, newly divorced, Strayed resolves to hike the Pacific Crest Trail, from California to Oregon. “I’d walk and think about my entire life. I’d find my strength again, far from everything that had made my life ridiculous.”

Strayed admits, the journey does not turn out as planned. Before she even begins the hike, hoisting her enormous backpack turns out to be nearly impossible, and her too-tight boots commence to destroy her feet. The money she has saved up from waitressing tips turns out to be just barely enough to sustain her.

Yet the journey also brings unexpected blessings, many involving the people – diverse, finely detailed and sometimes amusing – she meets on the trail. In the end, the journey does transform Strayed – and a central strength of Wild is that the reader viscerally experiences this transformation along with her. I appreciated her brutal honesty of her past and the trials of the trail.

Great read.

 

HEAVEN IS FOR REAL: A Little Boy’s Astounding Story of His Trip to Heaven and Back

jesuscoltonburpo TODD BURPO with Lynn Vincent

HEAVEN is a rare jewel of a book. It will appeal to readers of a spiritual bent particularly Christians.When Colton was young, very young, under four, he was seriously ill with a ruptured appendix. I had a friend die of a rupture appendix; this is a grave condition. After two surgeries he pulled through and thrived. As he got better he started telling his pastor father and righteous mother about his time in heaven. He could tell them where Jesus sat. That God sent him back to earth to answer his father’s prayers. He met his great-grandfather, Pop, in heaven. Pop had died long before Colton was born. He also met his stillborn sisters who waits for him.

“…when I was angry at God because I couldn’t go to my son, hold him, and comfort him, God’s son was holding my son in his lap.”

This book isn’t for all. Personally I believe in the fundamental truth that is in all religions. If you have similar beliefs you will want to read HEAVEN. The picture on the left Colton says looks like the Jesus he met in heaven.

AFTERWARDS

afterwards

ROSAMUND LUPTON

A tragedy. The private school is burning. Grace runs into the conflagration searching for her teenage daughter, Jenny. “Motherhood isn’t soft and cozy and sweet; it’s selfish ferocity, red in tooth and claw.”  Grace finds her but before she get her out a wall falls on them. Firefighters have trouble getting to the burning school because of the abandoned cars of terrified parents. We meet the pair again in the hospital where there bodies are in the burn unit but they are disembodied spirits who can communicate to each other but not to others. “I’m a sliver-thin light, diamond sharp, that can slip through gaps in the world we know. I will come into your dreams and speak soft words when you think of me. There is no happy ever after – but there is an afterwards.
This isn’t our ending.”  It appears that the fire was arson. The search to find the unsub is undertaken by Grace’s sister -in-law Sarah a police officer and detective. Jenny is given three weeks to live; her heart is giving out. Grace is found to be brain dead. Though in spirit they try to figure out this mystery.

A good mystery.

THE DECEPTION OF LIVVY HIGGS

TheDeceptionOfLivvyHiggsDONNA MORRISSEY

AKA: Lies and Secrets

Deception skips between two time periods and settings. In 2009, the elderly Livvy, ailing in her Halifax home, dreams of her childhood on Newfoundland’s French Shore in the 1930s and ’40s. Morrissey slips between times easily, sometimes mid sentence. Livvy loses her mother, struggles in school, and rebels against her cold father. Her loneliness and longing are vividly portrayed. Libby has a push pull relationship with her mother’s mother, Grandma Creed who is vain and controlling. She describes her grandmother trying to “slip her own aged bones inside of Mother’s and wear the youthful flesh of her daughter as others wore a store-bought dress.” Livvy is an elderly, cantankerous woman who has little social support and is in ill health. In her own words, she is “too tired for company and too old for ghosts.” Luckily she has a young neighbour who helps care for her.

Take a look. You will enjoy it. Very well written.

TASTEFUL NUDES … and Other Misguided Attempts at Personal Growth and Validation

tastefulDAVE HILL

Tasteful Nudes, is a collection of short, comic, autobiographical essays. They skip around in time and subject: One chapter about meeting a fan (a.k.a. “Hottest Naked Chick on the Internet”) in real life segues into another about his love of playing guitar. The title is from a story about spending time at a nudist resort—when Hill opens Tasteful Nudes with an essay about a nudist boat trip. Hill writes with a winking bravado, making bold statements (his intro boasts that he told St. Martin’s “to go fuck themselves” when they approached him about a book because he’s “an artist”) that he quickly undercuts. (He changed his mind when St. Martin’s offered him $400 to write it.) Hill mixes ironic boastfulness with genuine heart. “A Funny Feeling” comically details his battles with depression while slipping in references to the real severity of the problem. “The Time I Went to Prison” describes his thoughts and feelings about doing a comedy show at Sing Sing. The prisoners loved his show, chanting his name as he left the building. “Big in Japan” chronicles his rock band‘s tour consisting of four gigs. All the audience new the lyrics of this unheard of band, and sang along as they played. He makes some of his funniest points describing the unreality of losing a parent: “Learning that my mother had died sounded about as ridiculous to me as if someone said, ‘Hey Dave, did you know your mom used to play for the Knicks?’” When he couldn’t wrap his head around his mom’s death, Hill decided that she’d just moved somewhere, not died. “‘Mom, I’ve been looking all over for you,’ I’d say once I found her. ‘Why Akron?’”

It is a funny book. Worth taking a look at.

SPIT AND PASSION

CHRISTY C. ROADSpitandPassion

Not all LGBT coming of age tales are tales of coming out. Punk raconteur, musician and artist Cristy C. Road’s latest graphic memoir is instead a tale of the closet, and how the band Green Day saved her tween, queer soul.  This is a very thorough tour of that small space, where as a young lesbian, Road struggled to find her queer identity. Outside of her closet, the beliefs of her family, school and American culture denied her queerness, striving to keep that closet door shut tight.  For many of us, memories of our twelve-year-old crushes (c’mon, ‘fess up, who of you liked the Monkees? Boyz II Men? New Kids on the Block? Justin Bieber?) are dalliances we don’t ever want to see on Facebook, or write about ourselves. Then again, twelve-year-olds aren’t known for their musical taste, and the bands we first love are often more about the visionary doors they open for us, than who they really are. Road was lucky that the band she fell for had enough integrity that their songs rescued her, gave her a nom de plume she that keeps to this day, and featured a lead singer, Billy Joe Armstrong, who is now her fan.

Raised in a Cuban-American, Catholic family, with strong interesting female role models, Road was none-the-less expected to conform with certain cultural female stereotypes: keeping her hair long, dressing conservatively, believing in Jesus and Mary and the Holy Ghost. At school, she hangs out with boys, secretly crushing out on girls, especially Alex, who has the audacity to shave her head and by doing so, opens Road’s envious eyes to the freedom self expression engenders.

Road’s black and white illustrations are bold and inviting, and a good match for both the story and its historical setting. In fact, for me, the illustrations stole the show; exuberant and boisterous, I kept waiting for them to burst into dialog, grab the plot, and turn this illustrated novel into a full-fledged comic book. Although Road is true to the experience of living a double life, I was sad that by the end of the book, the door was still closed. And to me, the text sometimes became the closet itself, smothering action with introspection, nipping the wings of the characters’ stories through volumes of written words. I yearned to know more about Road’s escapades with her female friends, to jump in the car and ride to adventure with her mom and those other strong working class women relatives, to let the dialog run loose, nab the story and fly. I longed for more action to match the exuberance of the striking illustrations. I don’t know if the obviously talented Road plans to continue her memoir, but my hope is that volume two kicks the door open wide, and Road ‘s future tales share how her young, smothered self burst into queer fruition.

I borrowed this review from LAMBDA LITERARY.