Tuesday, March 8, 2011
I can't exactly explain what it was about IMPERFECT ENDINGS: A DAUGHTER'S STORY OF LOVE, LOSS, AND LETTING GO by Zoe FitzGerald Carter that made me want to read it. When I read the book's description, it sounded like such a difficult book to read -- a woman's story about her mother's decision to commit suicide. Maybe I was just curious because I couldn't imagine how a daughter handles watching her mother kill herself. Or possibly, I was interested in learning more about the process involved in taking care of aging parents and grandparents. Truth be told, it was probably a little bit of both. However, I think what really sold me on this book was the author's own words about her story, "the book is not depressing and is about so much more than just my mother's death." I just knew I had to give it a try!
I swear I'm not a glutton for punishment and I do try to stay away from books that make me uncomfortable, but IMPERFECT ENDINGS was such a worthwhile read. I was deeply moved by the story, and I agree that it really is about so much more than Ms. Carter's mother's death. There were so many important themes in this book that will appeal to many readers like sibling relationships, how to deal with aging parents, how to handle loss, and how to balance taking care of your parents and your children.
There is no doubt that portions of this book were very disconcerting to read. Frankly, I had a hard time with every scene where Ms. Carter and her mother were talking about her declining health. So you can imagine how I felt about the ones where they discussed how she would kill herself. What I found pretty darn amazing about this book, though, is that it wasn't a "hard" read for me. By that I mean, I didn't find myself putting this book down and not wanting to pick it back up. I was extremely caught up in this family's ordeal and despite knowing how the story ultimately ended, I felt as if I wanted to know how Ms. Carter and her sisters were able to accept things and eventually move on. In fact, I'd go so far as to say that I didn't find this book to be incredibly sad and dark. Rather, I found Ms. Carter's story to be inspirational and quite full of life!
God willing, I will never have to go through an ordeal similar to Ms. Carter's. But who knows? I bet Ms. Carter and her sisters never thought this would happen to them either. So, I really appreciate that Ms. Carter wrote IMPERFECT ENDINGS and put her story out there for so many people. Of course this book does bring up the debate of assisted suicides for those with terminal illnesses, but it also touches upon so many issues which will touch us directly. It demonstrates some of the ways we have to deal with our aging parents and how to handle losing them, as well as how to balance our current family responsibilities with our obligations to our parents.
IMPERFECT ENDINGS is getting some terrific press. The book was excerpted in O Magazine and was a Barnes & Nobel Discover Great New Writer's pick. It was also just nominated by the MS Society in the "Inspirational Memoir" category. I definitely think it's worthy of all this attention. Despite having an incredible story, another thing that really stood out to me about this book was Ms. Carter's writing. I thought IMPERFECT ENDINGS was very well written, and I was deeply impressed with the author's honesty. In addition, I appreciated that she incorporated some humor into the story because not only did it break up some of the more troubling parts, but it also seemed to be authentic and reflected some of the thoughts and actions that a "real" family would experience in a time like this.
Since I feel that this book is very relevant to so many of us, I think it would make a terrific book club pick. I know I often times wish my group would read more non-fiction and memoirs, and this one would be a great start. There is a reading guide available which touches upon so many of the issues that I've mentioned in this review. In addition to those, you might also want to explore the structure of the book, mother/daughter relationships, emotions (or lack thereof), facades, and control.
While IMPERFECT ENDINGS at first glance does appear to be a book with some difficult themes, please don't let that deter you from picking up this book. It is a fantastic story and one that brings to light some very important topics.
Thanks to the author for sending me a copy of her book.