The middle-aged narrator is caught in the maelstrom of tending to her father, who is dying of cancer; coping with her demented mother; mediating between her parents, for whom "[S]ixty years of marriage had only heated the furious war between them"; and dealing with her own grief. This glimpse of an increasingly common family dilemma is superbly rendered.

Although it is narrated in the first-person, the narrator is never intrusive as she allows the situation to unfold through dialog and unadorned description. The mother's dementia lends the story its bizarrely humorous moments, as well as its poignancy. This little "memoir" of a complex family dynamic is written with skill, insight, and a light touch.


This is an excellent selection to discuss with students and young health professionals, who have not yet reached this phase of life (middle-age, with ailing elderly parents) and who may not yet have interacted with demented individuals.

Primary Source

The New Yorker


Condé Nast

Place Published

New York


Sept. 30, 1996

Page Count