A retrospective and reflective review of the last weeks in the life of the author's aging mother. Threaded throughout the chronicle of the progressive downhill course of the patient dying of cancer are flashbacks to the earlier relationships among the author, her sister, and their mother. The course of the illness enables the reader to view many of the common problems that inform the doctor-patient, nurse-patient, and parent-child relationship. The narrator, who is an accomplished writer, creates vivid and timely images of the hospital as experienced by the lay person.


This novella-length prose work presents a deeply personal view of the role-reversal, grief, regret and anger that so often accompany the walk with a parent to his or her death. The telling is simple and direct, with the sharp and accurate imagery and reflections we are accustomed to getting from Beauvoir. There are several ethical issues introduced as a part of the narrative, including truth-telling in the doctor-patient relationship. The special needs of families during the parental death-watch are nicely articulated in a way that is very useful as teaching tool.


First published: 1964. Translated by Patrick O'Brian.



Place Published

New York



Page Count