An uncompromising stance and occasionally heavy-handed writing drain some of the intensity from a difficult, doubt-riddled...

GOODBYE TO MOTHER

A heartfelt, somewhat moralistic tale of love, loss and difficult decisions.

In his debut novel, Joshi offers a semiautobiographical exploration of an elderly mother’s disappearance into advanced dementia and her son’s struggle to do what’s best for her. Though the ethical gray areas of end-of-life care are rife with potential, Joshi painstakingly makes his opinions too clear for real narrative tension to build, beginning with an unnecessary foreword that includes the leading, synoptic question: “Should human beings in the later stages of dementia be forced to stay alive, connected to machines, when they have no quality of life, or should they be allowed to die with dignity?” The true action of the book begins when narrator Michael Johnson, the youngest of three siblings, learns his mother, Linda, has died—though it’s quickly revealed that Michael had “known it was coming because [he] was the catalyst for her death.” The first few chapters follow the days immediately after, as Michael, sister Maria and brother Mark make funeral arrangements and try to come to terms with their loss. Joshi does some of his best writing here, with specific, evocative details: Michael’s confusion about the death certificate’s bureaucratic significance; his misguided impulse to reprimand the children in the family for playing at the funeral; the adult siblings reminiscing about their mother, trading anecdotes that seem, on the surface, entirely unimportant. The greater portion of the book is devoted to flashbacks tracing the course of Linda’s cognitive deterioration from her first symptoms through her time living with Michael and his family to Michael’s decision to move her to a nursing home. In a moment that feels slightly sexist at the book’s climax, Michael and sensible Mark are unable to convince the “emotional” Maria that it’s in their mother’s best interest to remove the feeding tubes that keep their mother alive in body only.

An uncompromising stance and occasionally heavy-handed writing drain some of the intensity from a difficult, doubt-riddled situation.

Pub Date: Oct. 11, 2012

ISBN: 978-1477623589

Page Count: 200

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Dec. 24, 2012

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

HAPPY-GO-LUCKY

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

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • New York Times Bestseller

  • IndieBound Bestseller

ON JUNETEENTH

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

Did you like this book?

more