Showing 651 - 660 of 676 annotations tagged with the keyword "Illness and the Family"

Looking After: A Son's Memoir

Daniel, John

Last Updated: Jan-22-1997
Annotated by:
McEntyre, Marilyn

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Memoir

Summary:

In this reflective memoir, a son in his mid-forties recalls the final years of his mother's life, the mystery of her changed being as she succumbed to Alzheimer's disease, and the long weeks and months he spent as caretaker, confronting the mystery of his own life and the role of memory in it by witnessing at close range the closing down of both life and memory in her. The book is candid about the whole range of feelings--including the most unexpected and unwelcome--associated with the difficult decision to bring an aging and infirm parent into one's household, care for her, reconfigure family life, and consent to the disconcerting inversion of parent-child roles.

Each of its forty short chapters is a lyrical moment. Daniel weaves memories of his mother's life--musing about those parts he can only know second hand--and exquisite portraiture, with ongoing reflection about his purposes in writing; what gifts there may have been in the difficult process of seeing her through a difficult passage into death; and how some of those gifts unfold only in the aftermath. His speculations about the inner life of an Alzheimer's patient add nothing to medical understanding, but model a deeply edifying kind of compassion and will to imagine beyond the failures of mind and body to a silent, inarticulate self that still deserves to be honored.

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Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

Humphry Clinker is an epistolary novel, a collection of letters, that charts the adventures of a family group traveling through Britain. The head of the family is Matthew Bramble, a gouty old man, who is constantly writing his doctor with his complaints and visiting areas supposed to be good for his condition. He is accompanied by his niece, Lydia, who is in love with a poor man, Wilson. Her brother, an Oxford student, also comes along, as does Bramble's unwed sister, Tabitha. Tabitha's maid, Winifred Jenkins, accompanies her.

The group travels to Bath, London, Edinburgh, and the Scottish Highlands. Along the way, they meet Humphry Clinker, a dull-headed creature who becomes devoted to Matthew Bramble, even saving his life. He turns out to be Bramble's illegitimate son. Lydia's lover is discovered to be the son of a wealthy man who is Bramble's friend; they are finally happily married.

Tabitha marries Lismahago, an eccentric captain. Winifred Jenkins joins the festivities by marrying Clinker. Relieved of the feminine presence and bother in his life, Bramble recovers his health, writing to his doctor that from now on he will go hunting rather than write letters.

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A Glorious Morning, Comrade

Gee, Maurice

Last Updated: Dec-17-1996
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

Mr. Pitt-Rimmer is a demented elderly man who lives with his two daughters. They are entertaining their friends for the afternoon. When their attention is diverted, he runs away, stopping first at the dairy store to buy some cigarettes and Turkish delight. The proprietress recognizes him and calls his daughter, but Mr. Pitt-Rimmer again slips off.

He has various other encounters before his daughters pick him up later in the afternoon. "Promise us you won't be naughty again. It makes us so sad." But the old man later writes in the back of his book, "My daughters are keeping me prisoner. Help! I have not had a piece of meat for twenty years . . . ."

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Annotated by:
Dittrich, Lisa

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Collection (Poems)

Summary:

The "four voices" of this collection are Lila, her grown daughters Jennie and Sarah, and Jennie's daughter, Kate, whom Sarah has raised as her own. Sarah is a potter, and she gathers the women of the family together each year for the "vigil" of the wood-kiln firing of the pots she and her assistants have made during the year.

What the voices reveal is the story of, in Gibson's words, "three generations in a family shaped by alcoholism"--that is, the alcoholism of Jennie and Sarah's father, who is now dying in a hospice. Each woman holds secrets, and they reveal the secrets to the reader and, slowly, to each other as the story unfolds--secrets about the death of Jennie and Sarah's brother, about Jennie and Sarah's relationship to Kate, and about Kate's pregnancy.

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The House of the Future

Cooper, Bernard

Last Updated: Dec-10-1996
Annotated by:
Kohn, Martin

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

A long story (35 pages) within a book of stories about the author's family, "The House of the Future" movingly describes from the perspective of a precocious 12 year old the death from cancer of his older brother, age 17. The story, subtitled "a reminiscence," conveys in a remarkable way the hopes and fears, the habits and idiosyncrasies of this ordinary and outlandish family. The belief in the clarity of architecture which sustained the younger brother through the year of his older brother's dying, collapses in the end, leaving him to enter a new house, a new ambiguous space, for making sense of his loss.

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Sheila's Dying

Carter, Alden

Last Updated: Dec-10-1996
Annotated by:
McEntyre, Marilyn

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel for Young Adults

Summary:

Jerry, a basketball player, is going with Sheila, who hates Bonnie, who volunteers at the hospital. After bouts of intense, unfamiliar pain, Sheila learns that she has cancer of the ovaries and intestines. Sheila lives with an alcoholic grandmother; Jerry, with a single working mother and sister. The story treats Jerry's desire for sex, his friends' avoidance, and the dilemmas he faces as taking care of Sheila cuts into school and team commitments.

He wonders whom to tell, what to say to Sheila, and how to stick with a girl through defacing illness. He finds he's not in love with her. He's unsure how to handle his own family obligations as he realizes that he's the only "family" Sheila can count on. But he stays with her until the end.

His fidelity has little to do with romantic love, but rather with a larger kind of love he's learning. Sheila's death is partly a relief. Jerry needs to regroup and go on with his life after this cataclysmic hiatus. The going on, it seems, will involve Bonnie, the hospital volunteer whom neither Jerry nor Sheila appreciated until her unseasonable maturity helped them in time of need.

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A Time for Dancing

Hurwin, Davida Wills

Last Updated: Dec-09-1996
Annotated by:
McEntyre, Marilyn

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel for Young Adults

Summary:

Julie and Samantha have been best friends since they met in a dancing class at age nine. Now, at sixteen, they are closer than sisters, at home in each other's families, sharing everything, imagining their futures together

Julie, who has been feeling unusually fatigued and experiencing hip pain, finds, after several misdiagnoses, that she has diffuse histiocytic lymphoma, a type of cancer. She begins a course of aggressive chemotherapy and with it an inner journey that gradually distances her from family, friends, and in particular Sam--in ways none of them could have predicted.

Love is stretched for all of them beyond where it has had to reach before. There are periods of silence, odd pretenses, and conversations of unprecedented intimacy as Julie, her parents, and her best friend chart their bumpy course through shock and various tactics of accommodation to final acknowledgment that Julie is dying. Julie's own accelerated growth into an enlarged consciousness of the shape of her own life and destiny, and Sam's growth into a kind of emotional and psychological independence she'd never known before are the focus of this story, each girl narrating her own side of the story in alternating chapters.

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Annotated by:
McEntyre, Marilyn

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel for Young Adults

Summary:

Thirteen-year-old Sarah's mother, a lively, successful lawyer, discovers she has metastatic cancer. The story covers the months between her diagnosis and death. Sarah's dad is a minor character; there is little portrayal of his relationship with the mother, or with Sarah, except when he's announcing bad news. Sarah finds herself reacting in unexpected ways--feeling hateful, angry, detached, paralyzed, inclined to deny the whole thing.

The supporting character is Sarah's friend, Robin, whose mother has agoraphobia, never goes anywhere, knows few people, and rarely allows Robin to invite Sarah over. Sarah comes to understand this problem for the first time when her own mother's illness opens channels of communication between the girls.

The moment of the mother's death is described briefly but vividly: "Mom suddenly lifted both hands, pressed them hard against her forehead. She looked at me once, her eyes huge, and for an instant, it was as if she were pleading with me." The mystery of what her mother might have wanted in that final moment haunts Sarah--a reminder that death leaves questions with no answers. As the story ends, Sarah rereads a note from her mother which concludes, "'Don't let anybody tell you differently. What we're going through stinks. It just plain stinks." The novel ends with this emotional truth, making little attempt to soften it by speculation about afterlife.

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Annie's Monster

Corcoran, Barbara

Last Updated: Nov-01-1996
Annotated by:
McEntyre, Marilyn

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel for Young Adults

Summary:

Annie, daughter of an Episcopalian priest, inherits a wolfhound from a woman in the parish. While on a walk, she and her huge dog discover a homeless woman in an old abandoned shed. The woman is mentally unstable, having escaped from a mental institution. Originally suspicious and threatening, she finally calms to Annie's spunky attentions and tells her the problem: her condition can be controlled with a drug they administered in the mental hospital, but conditions in the hospital were so dehumanizing she's unwilling to go back even for medical relief.

Annie makes a project of helping the old woman, though her father objects, preferring the institutional solution. Annie finds an ally in her father's assistant, a more socially active priest. With his help Annie makes the parish and her father aware of problems in institutions that care for the mentally ill. Her father finally admits to the congregation that the parish ought to be more invested in local social services.

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A Summer to Die

Lowry, Lois

Last Updated: Oct-31-1996
Annotated by:
McEntyre, Marilyn

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel for Young Adults

Summary:

Thirteen-year-old Meg tells the story of the summer of her fifteen-year-old sister’s death. One night Molly awakens covered with blood, Meg calls their parents, and Molly goes to the hospital where she remains for weeks, undergoing tests. It takes Meg a long time to let herself realize how bad it is, even after the magnitude of the illness is visible on Molly’s ravaged body.

Much of the medical detail in the hospital scenes makes clear how advanced the disease is, but Meg masks her growing fear with disgust, projecting her fear onto doctors she decides must be using Molly for experiments and exaggerating the seriousness of her condition. Unable to open herself to an empathy that would require both an unusual act of imagination and courage to face grief, Meg focuses on the bizarre visible effects of Molly’s illness and on her own altered daily life. Her oddly "selfish" perspective, understood as a self-protective strategy, makes complete sense.

In the midst of the slow progress of Molly’s leukemia, Meg develops friendships with an old man and a young couple expecting a baby. Both contacts help normalize her world, provide her with "reality checks" and give her a quality of attention her parents can’t manage at the time. After the baby is born, Meg gains a new perspective on the precarious miracle of life and finds the courage to go to the hospital to see Molly, now in the final stages of the disease. Meg and her parents are emotionally reunited in their loss, and in the final chapter Meg reflects on the paradox of healing that doesn’t cover over loss, but allows life to be good again in different terms.

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