In this memoir, a caregiver relates the stories of the myriad people in her life she has helped, including her husband, mother, and an African family.
Years after their relationship began in secret, Larkin’s (Resettled, 2016) colleague Ron proposed to her. Soon after, they would find themselves moving to Boise, Idaho, “to make a fresh start”—in a city that seemingly wouldn’t hold many surprises but where the author quickly found herself caught up in the plight of the Bantu people. A persecuted ethnic minority from Somalia seeking asylum in the United States, the Bantu were brought to Boise in an effort to disperse refugee populations outside the major cities. Coincidentally, Larkin had studied the Bantu in school. She soon found herself helping and befriending young mother Fatuma; her ill husband, Yusuf; and their three children. The author helped Fatuma’s family to navigate mental illness, cancer, and a rebellious older son—finding the familial connection she sometimes lacked from her standoffish stepchildren. “Fatuma and I were so different,” Larkin writes, “but certain tragedies continued to bind us together.” With the discovery that Ron had glioblastoma multiforme, the author suddenly encountered a maze of fear and bureaucracy that would eventually lead her to lose the love of her life. She then started over yet again by leaving for Seattle to care for her elderly mother. The author skillfully shows how these events led her to experience many of Fatuma’s feelings of alienation and strain without ever leaving her own country. In its opening chapters, Larkin’s book explores the familiar tropes of a Westerner trying to reconcile immigrant experiences and foreign cultures with a suburban lifestyle that suddenly seems lavish. At one point, the author returned home and realized her garage was bigger than Fatuma’s apartment. But soon Larkin settles into a much more intriguing and substantial meditation on caregivers. Without ever boasting or lamenting, the author manages to perfectly capture both the joys and the immense psychological toll of constantly helping others, becoming an inspiring survivor herself in the process.
A weighty, captivating look at a caregiver who deals with death, mental illness, and the struggles of refugees in America.