Well-crafted, heart-wrenching, and courageous poems about love and pain.



A daughter remembers her father, his dementia, and their last times together in this collection of poetry.

The morning of the day she received the call informing her that her father had died, Dargis was inspired to write a sonnet about caregiving. Her father developed dementia after experiencing a serious fall, which was followed by a rapid decline in his health. The book is divided into two parts, with the first section recalling his period of rehabilitation in a hospital. The second portion recounts his time in hospice. The collection’s title refers to the parting phrase the author spoke to her father when visiting hours ended. Dargis’ poetry captures a broad range of aspects of life as a caregiver to an elderly parent. The opening poem, “A Contradiction,” effortlessly depicts the brutal reality of dementia: “Not known for its precision. Like an old / Timex ticking well enough, but still not / Ready to cease.” The volume describes her father’s moments of unexpected lucidity, other patients on his ward, and his gradual slipping away: “I missed him, even though I was with him.” Dargis’ sonnets plainly describe the everyday experiences and fluctuating anxieties of a caregiver, as in “The Time Traveler”: “James, the nurse, came in with the / Blood pressure machine. It was lower than / Normal. Could he be in a state?” She is nevertheless acutely aware of the toll that these experiences have on her and that she must fortify herself, as demonstrated in “Sparring With Pugs,” an example of her understated yet impactful use of imagery: “I slip my mind into the mottled glove / And tighten the strings.” This is a deeply personal document, and those unacquainted with the poet’s family are left to guess the identities of individuals mentioned throughout: “Roger and Shirley smiled. / I bowed to Tamiko.” This does not detract significantly from the volume’s wider appeal, as Dargis succeeds in exploring the spectrum of emotions felt by all caregivers, from hope to resignation. Offering a list of caregiver resources at its close, this tenderly observed and moving collection will particularly resonate with poetry lovers faced with similarly challenging circumstances.

Well-crafted, heart-wrenching, and courageous poems about love and pain.

Pub Date: Nov. 11, 2018


Page Count: 54

Publisher: Self

Review Posted Online: May 14, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2020

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A sweet-and-sour set of pieces on loss, absurdity, and places they intersect.


Sedaris remains stubbornly irreverent even in the face of pandemic lockdowns and social upheaval.

In his previous collection of original essays, Calypso (2018), the author was unusually downbeat, fixated on aging and the deaths of his mother and sister. There’s bad news in this book, too—most notably, the death of his problematic and seemingly indestructible father at 96—but Sedaris generally carries himself more lightly. On a trip to a gun range, he’s puzzled by boxer shorts with a holster feature, which he wishes were called “gunderpants.” He plays along with nursing-home staffers who, hearing a funnyman named David is on the premises, think he’s Dave Chappelle. He’s bemused by his sister Amy’s landing a new apartment to escape her territorial pet rabbit. On tour, he collects sheaves of off-color jokes and tales of sexual self-gratification gone wrong. His relationship with his partner, Hugh, remains contentious, but it’s mellowing. (“After thirty years, sleeping is the new having sex.”) Even more serious stuff rolls off him. Of Covid-19, he writes that “more than eight hundred thousand people have died to date, and I didn’t get to choose a one of them.” The author’s support of Black Lives Matter is tempered by his interest in the earnest conscientiousness of organizers ensuring everyone is fed and hydrated. (He refers to one such person as a “snacktivist.”) Such impolitic material, though, puts serious essays in sharper, more powerful relief. He recalls fending off the flirtations of a 12-year-old boy in France, frustrated by the language barrier and other factors that kept him from supporting a young gay man. His father’s death unlocks a crushing piece about dad’s inappropriate, sexualizing treatment of his children. For years—chronicled in many books—Sedaris labored to elude his father’s criticism. Even in death, though, it proves hard to escape or laugh off.

A sweet-and-sour set of pieces on loss, absurdity, and places they intersect.

Pub Date: May 31, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-316-39245-7

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: March 11, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2022

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A concise personal and scholarly history that avoids academic jargon as it illuminates emotional truths.

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The Harvard historian and Texas native demonstrates what the holiday means to her and to the rest of the nation.

Initially celebrated primarily by Black Texans, Juneteenth refers to June 19, 1865, when a Union general arrived in Galveston to proclaim the end of slavery with the defeat of the Confederacy. If only history were that simple. In her latest, Gordon-Reed, winner of the Pulitzer Prize, National Book Award, Anisfield-Wolf Book Award, and numerous other honors, describes how Whites raged and committed violence against celebratory Blacks as racism in Texas and across the country continued to spread through segregation, Jim Crow laws, and separate-but-equal rationalizations. As Gordon-Reed amply shows in this smooth combination of memoir, essay, and history, such racism is by no means a thing of the past, even as Juneteenth has come to be celebrated by all of Texas and throughout the U.S. The Galveston announcement, notes the author, came well after the Emancipation Proclamation but before the ratification of the 13th Amendment. Though Gordon-Reed writes fondly of her native state, especially the strong familial ties and sense of community, she acknowledges her challenges as a woman of color in a state where “the image of Texas has a gender and a race: “Texas is a White man.” The author astutely explores “what that means for everyone who lives in Texas and is not a White man.” With all of its diversity and geographic expanse, Texas also has a singular history—as part of Mexico, as its own republic from 1836 to 1846, and as a place that “has connections to people of African descent that go back centuries.” All of this provides context for the uniqueness of this historical moment, which Gordon-Reed explores with her characteristic rigor and insight.

A concise personal and scholarly history that avoids academic jargon as it illuminates emotional truths.

Pub Date: May 4, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-63149-883-1

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Liveright/Norton

Review Posted Online: Feb. 24, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2021

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