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Summary:Agnes Higgins envies her husband Harold's ability to have brilliant and captivating dreams, nightly exotic dreams which he can recount to her in vivid detail. Agnes's dreams, when she has them, are ugly and frightening. Harold begins to coach Agnes in techniques for achieving perfect dreams. Agnes practices. She becomes progressively preoccupied with learning how to dream, but is unable to achieve a satisfying result. She becomes depressed, insomniac, and finally takes a fatal dose of sleeping pills. Harold finds Agnes "with her tranquil features set in a slight, secret smile of triumph . . . ."
Summary:Sometimes I'd spend the whole night coughing up / what I'd been breathing all day at work. With this beginning to a 20-line poem, the author presents the plain, straightforward suffering of a laborer with lungs damaged as a result of his job in a cotton mill. The doctor he consults simply advises that he get a different job, at which the speaker scoffs: "as if / a man who had no land or education / could find himself another way to live." His foreman more humanely transfers him to an outside position loading boxcars. But the damage has been done: "I'd still wake / gasping for air at least one time a night. / When I dreamed I dreamed of bumper crops / of Carolina cotton in my chest."
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.
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.
Summary:Written for young adults by a volunteer in a children's cancer ward, the novel features an adolescent twin girl whose bone cancer separates her definitively from the active life she knew, and from the twin with whom she has lived her whole life in deep empathy. In the hospital she goes through a predictable period of adjustment when restlessness, loneliness, rage, and homesickness dominate. Eventually, though these feelings do not disappear, they are modified by the discovery of new forms of companionship that arise among those who share her confinement, fear, and recognition that the terms of her life have irrevocably changed. The camaraderie she experiences in the hospital teaches her both a new kind of friendship and new ways of understanding family relationship. The ending may disappoint some readers; several patients arrange a sexual encounter for a friend down the hall so she won't die without having been through that passage.
Brad, son and grandson of Boston doctors, resists acknowledging what is happening as his beloved grandfather succumbs to Alzheimer's disease. The family's resignation to the loss simply fuels his denial. His father, a senior physician, has to confront both his own father's dementia and his son's denial.
The rest of the family conspire from various points of view to make Brad accept what is happening to his grandfather and how the family system has to change in response. The old man, they point out, gets mean as well as disoriented. The father urges Brad not to divert his energies from "normal" adolescent occupations to trying to rescue his grandfather from an inevitable fate. Brad's response is to insist that his grandfather might get better, and to resent ever more deeply a family he sees as abandoning the old man.
In a final scene the old man is almost hit in an accident. Brad races to call his father, returning in time for his exhausted and confused grandfather to collapse against him on the sidewalk. Brad's father refuses to resuscitate him, recalling the old man's prohibition against extraordinary measures. In that moment of decision Brad comes to understand his father's predicament, his professional responsibilities, and the complexity of his relationship to the man he has known as grandfather. Letting his grandfather go, he also lets go of an adolescent resistance to his father's point of view, and crosses a threshold into adulthood that is both sobering and liberating.
An apostrophe to a friend of the author, a devout Catholic who died of leukemia, this poem moves through a spectrum of grieving emotions. The poet remembers an ironic comment: "and you said, when someone asked / if you’d have the operation offered, / ’I don’t have a choice’: / you were right. Your choice was death / or death." Later, he angrily swears at the attempted reassurances of the priest, developing his own bleak vision of God, but he finally concludes: "I can’t scorn your beliefs, / dare not laugh, suffer or sneer. / After all, it’s me who’s writing this / as if you’d hear."
This 1979 Academy Award winning documentary takes us into the lives of the Wohl family. Featured in this film are Philip ("Philly") Wohl, retarded since birth and now in his early 50's, and the family members who care for him: his sister, Frances, and parents, Max and Pearl. The film-maker is Philip's cousin, Ira Wohl, who provides the narrative structure for the film and was moved to document the struggle of aging parents to care for their aging and homebound son.
Ira Wohl's goal was to convince Philly's family that Philly needed to become a part of the community by moving to a group home before his parents became incapable of caring for him. In fact, during the three years of filming Max dies. And eight months after the filming and Philly's successful move to a group home, Pearl dies.
Addie Bundren is dying in Yoknapatawpha County, Mississippi. As she dwindles, her five children, husband, a scattering of neighbors and the country doctor move about her. Each is given a chapter named for him or her, to provide evolving and unique viewpoints on Addie's life and death.
When Addie has finally breathed her last, the action begins: Anse, Addie's husband, has promised her that she would be buried in Jefferson with her own family. The nuclear family sets out in their old wagon. Floods, injuries, irrational decisions, disagreements, fire, and the full mental collapse of one of the children plague the journey. Addie is eventually buried in Jefferson, but in the process of getting her there, the reader learns the sweet and the sordid about this poverty-stricken and profoundly dysfunctional family.
Berczeller was a Hungarian doctor who was forced into exile by the Nazi occupation. He traveled to Paris, to Morocco and finally got a medical license in the United States. A Trip Into the Blue is a collection of ten short stories about his experiences originally written for the New Yorker.
In "The Morphinist" he writes about the first time he was left in charge of the small hospital where he first practiced. A corpse was brought in that turned out to be alive. The man had tried to kill himself with morphine and Berczeller spent all night keeping the man awake and preventing him from trying to suicide again.
"Paternity" recounts an experience Berczeller had while setting up a practice in his rural hometown. His patients wanted more from him than simply medical expertise; he had to become a moral judge and counselor. In "Sodom and Gomorrah" he recounts how he almost became a film star instead of a doctor.