Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Two books about the elderly

Eight of the books I'd had on reserve for weeks were ready for pickup on the same day.  EIGHT books.  Two of them were about older people, and that's why I am discussing them as a pair.  Mary Anne Schwalbe is 73 at the beginning of the first book, and she's dying of cancer.  I'm 74 and am more interested in this book than the one about a bride in that stack of eight books.  I'm much closer to when I'll die than when I was a bride, and I'm completely at peace with that.

The other book is about a last great adventure.  Even though Etta is 83 (or maybe because of it), she left home to walk to the sea, just as I moved last summer to St. Louis from my hometown in Chattanooga, Tennessee.  It's an adventure because I've never lived west of the Mississippi River and the only folks I knew here were my best friend Donna and her sister Jane.  I did not, however, walk the nearly 500 miles here.  My adventure started with a moving van.

Etta and Otto and Russell and James ~ by Emma Hooper, 2015, fiction (Canada)
The letter began, in blue ink,
I’ve gone.  I’ve never seen the water, so I’ve gone there.  Don’t worry, I’ve left you the truck.  I can walk.  I will try to remember to come back.
Yours (always),
Otto finds the note left by his wife in the kitchen of their farmhouse in windswept Saskatchewan.  Eighty-three-year-old Etta will be walking 3,200 kilometers to see the ocean, but somehow, Otto understands.  He took his own journey once before, to fight in a faraway land.  With Etta gone, Otto struggles with his demons of war, while their friend Russell initially pursues the woman he has loved from afar.  And James — well, James you have to meet on the page.  Moving from the hot and dry present of a quiet Canadian farm to a dusty, burnt past of hunger, war, and passion, from trying to remember to trying to forget, Etta and Otto and Russell and James is an astounding literary debut about friendship and love, hope and honor, and the romance of last great adventures.
The End of Your Life Book Club ~ by Will Schwalbe, 2012, memoir
During her treatment for cancer, Mary Anne Schwalbe and her son Will spent many hours sitting in waiting rooms together.  To pass the time, they would talk about the books they were reading.  Once, by chance, they read the same book at the same time — and an informal book club of two was born.  Through their wide-ranging reading, Will and Mary Anne — and we, their fellow readers — are reminded how books can be comforting, astonishing, and illuminating, changing the way that we feel about and interact with the world around us.  A profoundly moving memoir of caregiving, mourning, and love — The End of Your Life Book Club is also about the joy of reading, and the ways that joy is multiplied when we share it with others.


Sistah Sarah said...

neither one. iI just read The Lady of the Lake in preparation for the Met simulcast of La Donna del Lago. it has a lot of action for a narrative poem that isn't Dangerous Dan McGrew, but not a lot of insight into aging

Patchwork Reflections said...

Bonnie I tried to comment on this from my phone but I don't think I was sucessful. YES you will love The End of your Life Bookclub - for the great numbers of wonderful books discussed alone, with an added bonus of the story of mother and son sharing the last months of her life together.

Bonnie Jacobs said...

No, Susan, I didn't get any other comment from you, so I guess it didn't work from your phone.

Linda said...

I keep hearing about Etta and Otto and Russell and James. I'll have to pick it up sometime.