Offers an informative lesson and a comforting message for anyone with an afflicted family member.



Close-up look at life inside an Alzheimer’s care facility.

When her own mother had the disease, Kessler (Clever Girl, 2003, etc.) placed her in a care facility and visited only reluctantly. Determined to redeem this thoroughly unsatisfactory experience, the author immersed herself in academic research on the subject, then took a job as an attendant in an Alzheimer’s care facility. Although she did not go undercover like Barbara Ehrenreich (Nickel and Dimed, 2001), she does provide a similar exposé of the miserable conditions endured by minimum-wage workers, in this case the undereducated, underpaid and overworked women who care for our society’s institutionalized ill and aged. Unlike them, Kessler got to choose her working hours and was not there to earn a living. She wanted to comprehend firsthand what caretakers do, to connect with the residents and to understand their lives. What began as a short-term venture to gather material for a magazine article turned into months of work and observation, now expanded into this full-length narrative. The author’s graphic depiction of a caretaker’s daily routine—bathing, dressing, feeding and taking to the toilet old men and women who are often demanding and uncooperative—makes caring for a newborn seem a breeze. However unsavory the physical chores are, however, Kessler finds the experience immensely rewarding on an emotional level. She connects with these Alzheimer’s patients in a way she never could with her own mother. They make her feel needed, and she can be the daughter she never was, if only for a while. Kessler doesn’t scant the job’s numbing routine and frequent frustrations, but she is ever alert to small joys and simple kindnesses. She learns to accept rather than argue with the patients’ view of reality, thereby soothing their anxieties.

Offers an informative lesson and a comforting message for anyone with an afflicted family member.

Pub Date: June 4, 2007

ISBN: 978-0-670-03859-6

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2007

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A highly readable account of how solid research and personal testing of self-help techniques saved a couple's marriage after...


Self-help advice and personal reflections on avoiding spousal fights while raising children.

Before her daughter was born, bestselling author Dunn (Why Is My Mother Getting a Tattoo?: And Other Questions I Wish I Never Had to Ask, 2009, etc.) enjoyed steady work and a happy marriage. However, once she became a mother, there never seemed to be enough time, sleep, and especially help from her husband. Little irritations became monumental obstacles between them, which led to major battles. Consequently, they turned to expensive couples' therapy to help them regain some peace in life. In a combination of memoir and advice that can be found in most couples' therapy self-help books, Dunn provides an inside look at her own vexing issues and the solutions she and her husband used to prevent them from appearing in divorce court. They struggled with age-old battles fought between men and women—e.g., frequency of sex, who does more housework, who should get up with the child in the middle of the night, why women need to have a clean house, why men need more alone time, and many more. What Dunn learned via therapy, talks with other parents, and research was that there is no perfect solution to the many dynamics that surface once couples become parents. But by using time-tested techniques, she and her husband learned to listen, show empathy, and adjust so that their former status as a happy couple could safely and peacefully morph into a happy family. Readers familiar with Dunn's honest and humorous writing will appreciate the behind-the-scenes look at her own semi-messy family life, and those who need guidance through the rough spots can glean advice while being entertained—all without spending lots of money on couples’ therapy.

A highly readable account of how solid research and personal testing of self-help techniques saved a couple's marriage after the birth of their child.

Pub Date: March 21, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-316-26710-6

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Jan. 18, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2017

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A miscellany of paternal pride (and frustration) darkened by the author’s increasing realizations of his mortality.


Ruminations and reminiscences of an author—now in his 70s—about fatherhood, writing, and death.

O’Brien (July, July, 2002, etc.), who achieved considerable literary fame with both Going After Cacciato (1978) and The Things They Carried (1990), returns with an eclectic assembly of pieces that grow increasingly valedictory as the idea of mortality creeps in. (The title comes from the author’s uncertainty about his ability to assemble these pieces in a single volume.) He begins and ends with a letter: The initial one is to his first son (from 2003); the terminal one, to his two sons, both of whom are now teens (the present). Throughout the book, there are a number of recurring sections: “Home School” (lessons for his sons to accomplish), “The Magic Show” (about his long interest in magic), and “Pride” (about his feelings for his sons’ accomplishments). O’Brien also writes often about his own father. One literary figure emerges as almost a member of the family: Ernest Hemingway. The author loves Hemingway’s work (except when he doesn’t) and often gives his sons some of Papa’s most celebrated stories to read and think and write about. Near the end is a kind of stand-alone essay about Hemingway’s writings about war and death, which O’Brien realizes is Hemingway’s real subject. Other celebrated literary figures pop up in the text, including Elizabeth Bishop, Andrew Marvell, George Orwell, and Flannery O’Connor. Although O’Brien’s strong anti-war feelings are prominent throughout, his principal interest is fatherhood—specifically, at becoming a father later in his life and realizing that he will miss so much of his sons’ lives. He includes touching and amusing stories about his toddler sons, about the sadness he felt when his older son became a teen and began to distance himself, and about his anguish when his sons failed at something.

A miscellany of paternal pride (and frustration) darkened by the author’s increasing realizations of his mortality.

Pub Date: Oct. 14, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-618-03970-8

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Review Posted Online: July 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2019

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