Can’t we talk about something more pleasant? : a memoir

From  Margaret Mezzacapo
Author:  Roz Chast
Title:  Can’t we talk about something more pleasant? : a memoir 
You’ve undoubtedly seen Roz Chast’s artwork and cartoons, and probably derived pleasure and a few laughs from them. The answer to the question posed by the title is, “Yes, we could talk about ‘something more pleasant, but we’d miss out on the valuable story this book delivers.’ ”

Roz Chast’s parents were elderly, and were slipping slowly, but unfortunately, surely towards their last days. Chast, their only child, is thrust into the role of caretaker, a role she certainly didn’t consider to be one she desired. She details, in remarkable frankness and candor, her varying emotions towards this – many of which emotions are less than pleasant. Her artwork, which is featured throughout the book, elevates it to an even higher level. This is a book for adult children of elderly parents, for parents themselves, for caregivers, or for anyone. A particularly important piece of take-away information is to have that potentially uncomfortable talk about medical treatment at the end, last wishes, etc., while you can still have it comfortably and coherently, instead of waiting until all hell breaks loose and then fumbling around in the dark.

Love saves the day : a novel

From  Margaret  Mezzacapo
Author:  Gwen Cooper
Title:   Love saves the day : a novel
Cooper is the author of Homer’s Odyssey, the true story of how she rescued a blind kitten named Homer who proved you don’t have to be “perfect” to love and be loved. Love Saves the Day shows us that people, too, don’t have to be “perfect.” Family relationships, as told through the eyes of a poor, rescued stray kitten, are things that we do not always see or recognize – but that doesn’t mean that they’re not there. It just means that it might take us a long time to appreciate them.  This is an enjoyable book, recommended for all.

The Roots of the Olive Tree

From Ginny  Pisciotta
Author:  Courtney Miller  Santo
The Roots of the Olive Tree
The Roots of the Olive Tree gives the reader entrance  into the lives of 5 living generations of firstborn daughters and their complex  relationships.  Much of the story takes place at the family home  in an olive grove in the Sacramento Valley.  Anna, the family matriarch, is 112 years old at the beginning of the story and is still going strong.  Her daughter is 90 and also healthy in body and mind.

A geneticist seeks to unlock the secret of their longevity and provide a breakthrough that would change the aging process.  As he studies their genetic make-up, we catch glimpses into their emotional lives and gradually learn the secrets they are keeping from each other and the world around them.  Mysteries about each of them are revealed little by little as we learn the reasons behind  strained relationships.  The book is divided into sections – each one told from the viewpoint of one of these daughters.  The final chapter in the book jumps ahead about 10 years and is written from the viewpoint of the firstborn son of the youngest.

The book is riveting, but it is not a feel-good kind of story.  The characters are real and flawed, yet you do care about them.

Please look after Mom

From Eileen Effrat
Author:  Kyung-Sook    Shin
Please look after Mom 
Once you read this novel, you will never look at your Mom in the same light. You will find yourself asking, “Do I really KNOW my Mom?”The story begins when a 69 year old  woman , suffering from dementia, is separated from her husband  at the Seoul train station and  goes missing. While her adult children and husband search for her, each recounts Mom’s sacrifices and their own selfishness…  What emerges is a portrait of a hard working country woman whose life entirely revolved around her children.  This book is more than a guilt ridden soap opera.  For me it explored the complex relationship between grown children and parents. When do children assume the role of parent for aging parents?   What does motherhood entail? Simply written, this is the first English translation of one of South Korea’s best-selling novelists.