Poet and Bakeless Prize winner Nealon (Immaculate Fuel, 2004, etc.) poetically writes about her close-knit Irish-American family and her vocation for healing.
As a young girl, after enjoying a biography of Molly Pitcher, the author dreamed of accomplishing great deeds in the medical field. However, she writes, nursing school was actually a default option since her grades would not qualify her for a university scholarship. Tragically, her younger brother which whom she had an extremely close bond was diagnosed with a rare, difficult-to-treat cancer just after her graduation. Rather than seeking a job near her family home in New Jersey, she accepted a nursing job in Virginia because she couldn't face the possibility of her brother’s death. Only a year later, when her brother was near death, did she return home. Oppressed by guilt at the carefree life she had been living, Nealon writes about her painful realization that she had failed her family and especially her brother: “I had been in the wrong hospital. I had been at the wrong bedside.” Consequently, she took a job nursing young patients who had terminal cancers in the same hospital where her brother lay dying, and this was a turning point in her life. From then on, she was engaged in a search—for reconciliation with her parents and sister, who blamed her for leaving, for a lover who might take her brother's place, and for the spiritual sustenance she derived from nurturing cancer patients, caring for wave of early AIDS patients and treating the homeless.
Simultaneously an elegiac memoir and a sparkling prose-poem.