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A NECESSARY END by Nick Taylor

A NECESSARY END

By Nick Taylor

Pub Date: March 3rd, 1994
ISBN: 0-385-47102-5
Publisher: Doubleday

 In replaying his watch over the last six years of his parents' lives as they become ever more infirm, Taylor (Ordinary Miracles, 1993; Sins of the Father, 1989, etc.) reminds us of Shakespeare's warning that ``death, a necessary end,/Will come when it will come.'' Death is easy. What's hard is dying, as we see in this saddening memoir of how Taylor faced the challenge of aging and retired parents, once skilled professionals now on a shrunken income. A nest egg dwindles; health flakes away and flies off in small pieces. While Taylor writes with great restraint, he seldom subjects himself (or us) to that intensity or terrible immediacy once so shocking in Hemingway, who saw each detail as if on the last day of his life. A married, middle-aged, freelance New York journalist, Nick has sold a book to the movies and is writing a script that somehow seems to support his endless plane trips to North Carolina, Florida, and Mexico to help his parents arrange their housekeeping and finances. Most frustrating to him is that no act of his--however sensitive and keenly thought through--really fulfills his parents' needs or brings about a sense of lasting satisfaction in him: only delayed guilt. As with trying to adjust to the minds of a pair of drunks or addicts, something's always wrong. Time after time, he must hurry back to their loving but surprised smiles as once more he lends a hand and shores up a splitting dike. Meanwhile, some of his friends go through problems much like his, so that we see a culture of middle-aged earners caring for parents stricken with Alzheimer's or worse. As one reads, and as Nick focuses on his parents, a reader can't help foreseeing infirmities of one's own. The ``necessary end'' has some horrible side effects before it comes. A heartbreaker about caring, with no easy answers.