I've not read a book that moved me as much as this one has in ages. It is written beautifully, and I regret that I'm finished with it, I just picked it up from the library on Thursday, and I'm writing this Friday night.
The author is Tommy Hays, a writer in Asheville, NC. He has written 2 other books, I hope they are as good, I'll be looking for them soon.
The characters and the issues were so real to me - the painter, the artist, the gardener, the reader, dementia, long term care & nursing home frustrations and guilt - I truly felt I was there, that I recognized Prate, Newell, and Jackson as well as Irene and even Billie. I'm not sure if it was just the descriptive words of the writer or if I just felt connected to the characters so easily by their familiar roles.
Trying to write now about it seems really pathetic but I felt the need to record how touching this book was. I'm glad I hadn't read any reviews and just grabbed the book off the shelf at the last minute - my library time was running out and I hadn't found anything. Everything in the fiction area seemed to involve vampires, murder, or some other predictable topic...and so what did I grab? I unknowningly grabbed a book about a family dealing with alzheimers...yeah that sounds pretty depressing I know, but it wasn't.
I thought I might regret it when I first realized what it was about. It surprised me how much it didn't depress me - it inspired me and moved me very deeply. I cried at several parts in the book, but it wasn't a depressing sort of cry, it was because it was so beautiful and I felt I was right there with these people. It showed just how ugly and hard and unfair life can be, but in the midst of it, we have been given love and hope (it doesn't touch on Christianity really, but from my perspective I feel that God is the source of love and hope) and the combination of those two things is so powerful that even in facing such a sad part of life, there is still goodness and beauty and even humor.
If you get a chance to read this book, I so highly recommend it, well that's obvious if you've read this far! I almost want to go buy a copy to have it on hand, it was that good.
Some specific excerpts from the book:
"For weeks, Irene thought she was in a fancy hotel, that is when she didn't think she was on a cruise ship." -- this just struck me as funny, the individual rooms, activities, and dining "rules" just made me think of how perfect the analogy.
"...I had begun to see that the older we became, the smaller the victories, and if we didn't glory in the little ones, then likely as not, we gloried in nothing." -- it is true, some people can just glory only in their tragedies (no matter how big or small) and some people have learned to choose to continue to glory in life, in finding goodness and love and choosing to be happy no matter the circumstance.
"And the next thought, a terrible one, was that in a way, by being the best mother a mother could be to her son and the best wife a wife could be to her husband, Irene had inadvertantly kept Newell and me at a distance from one another. She had done all our work for us." -- this one really struck me - I read it and stopped and literally said "oh wow" - it just jumped off the page at me. All through the book I was almost jealous of how Irene seemed like the best wife and mother, how beautiful she was to so many and how she lived like she knew what was important and her life reflected it - I was thinking how much I wished I was more like her. I'm definitely not the best mother or best wife one can be, but I feel like that is always my goal, and I am continually disappointed in myself for not reaching it. I'm often trying to be better to be the most needed, to have my husband and child feel I'm the best and can take care of everything and be everything they need. How selfish is that? Perhaps being the best shouldn't be the goal, perhaps imperfection and acceptance and letting go allows for more happiness and enjoyment in life, and makes more room for others to step up and be their best. It is a difficult realization for me in some ways, and one I have to really think about more.
There are more quotes I want to add from the book, but I have to go to bed, it is 1:25 am now...sigh...and my little boog will be up by 7 am I'm sure!