Friday, July 12, 2019

As We Are Now; May Sarton


AUTHOR:  May Sarton
PUBLISHER:  WW Norton
PUB. YEAR: 1973
SETTING: New England
FORMAT:  - print/library (133 pp)
RATING - 5/5

I recently read about this book from JoAnn@ Lakeside Musing and, I'm so happy I decided to read it.

It's not that often that I've read a book written from the perspective of a senior citizen, especially one in failing health.  Such is the case of Caroline (Caro) Spencer.

Caro is 76 years old, a quiet, intelligent and sensitive woman. She never married and spent 40 years as a teacher.  When she suffers a heart attack, she's no longer able to navigate the stairs in her home and briefly moves in with her older brother John, 80, and his much younger wife, Ginny.  Soon after this brief stay, her brother drops her off at Twin Elms, a rural nursing home over 100 miles from where she once lived. He's not sure what to say so he remains quiet and quickly leaves.

She tries to make the best of her situation. Caro is happy to have her own room with a nice view, as well as some music and poetry. She begins journaling as a way to preserve her failing memory. Some days she begins to doubt those memories. She calls her journal, "The Book of the Dead", as when someone discovers it, she knows that she will be dead. 

On the days she sits outside, she pretends to be on vacation enjoying the scenery. She enjoys the times the resident cat, sneaks into her room for a visit.  She wonders where her brother John has been, he hadn't visited since he dropped her off. When he does eventually show up (4 weeks after he left her there) he only stays for fifteen minutes and once again remains quiet.

What is not so pleasant about life at Twin Elms are the mother and daughter team that runs the home: Harriet and Rose. They seem to find a way to show their disapproval of things the residents do by withholding privileges or occasional niceties. Like in childhood, she's sent to bed without supper because of a tantrum. Deep down she is bitter and angry.

So if this sounds like a downer of a story, it is, but, it is also seemed so honest and so beautiful. It's only 133 pages, and I loved it so much. It was written more like a journal with the first person narrative.  Highly recommended.

19 comments:

  1. I like how this one is making the rounds of the bloggers I follow. I may have to join in! Great review.

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  2. This does sound like a downer of a story, but it is the kind of eye-opener that all of us need to read. My father is 97 and he lives in an assisted living facility. Nice as the facility is and as much as I trust the people running it, I would not dare to turn my back on them for more than a day or so. This kind of thing happens, and the wrong people can make these places very dangerous. I'll be looking for this one.

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    1. Sam, I worked in the Nursing Home industry with HR responsibility for 26 homes in MA and NH for a number of years. Although I didn't deal directly with the residents, I spent plenty of time in the homes and read plenty of incident reports and family complaints. It's great that your dad has you for an advocate. It's critical these days!

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  3. This sounds like a touching story. I will keep it in mind. Wonderful review, Diane!

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  4. I saw this when when JoAnn posted about it too and just got the Kindle edition.

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  5. Just put a hold on this at my library! You and JoAnn have convinced me!

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  6. I'm so glad you loved this, too... such an extraordinary read!

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  7. Sounds like a sad but true experience.

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  8. This sounds very good. I agree that we could use more books written from the perspective of older folks., Unfortunately, I think that sometimes stories have to be on the sad side as sometimes life is that way.

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  9. I've only read one May Sarton and it was long ago, but I remember really enjoying it.

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  10. Only a 133 pages? I think I could handle a bittersweet story for that long. Nursing homes make me so, so sad.

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