Tag Archives: hospice

Bucky Fucking Dent by David Duchovny

BFD

So, David Duchovny’s first book (Holy Cow, which I haven’t reviewed because…well, why?)  was amusing, and I listened to him read it on audio so my inner fangirl enjoyed it. But this is a real book, and I enjoyed it even more. Duchovny, a novelist – who knew?

On the surface, it’s about a man who has squandered most of his opportunities and could be dismissed as a total loser. But if you read for just a few pages, you get hooked. By the end, you’ll realize the story is really about love. Love of family, of friends, of lovers – it covers them all, and when you finish the book you’re glad a) that you probably aren’t as fucked up as the protagonist and b) he finally got to express his love to the people he should have.

It’s not a happy book – people get together, break up for dumb reasons, lose other people they love, lie to each other, and make many poor life choices. You know, like life. And if you like baseball, there’s the added element of the whole thing playing out against the backdrop of the 1978 playoffs to spice things up for you. For an unremarkable hitter, Bucky Dent sure ruined a whole lot of people’s lives (including our protagonist’s) with one, stupidly lucky home run at the exact wrong moment. Of course, if you’re a Yankees fan, you probably see this the other way. But that’s life, too.

 

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Being Mortal by Atul Gawande

mortal

This book may be about mortality, but surprisingly it isn’t depressing at all (though it may trigger depressing thoughts in those with relatives in end-of-life care situations). My book club just finished discussing it Sunday, and since most of us have dealt with or are currently dealing with end-of-life care for our relatives, it sparked good discussion.

Gawande is a medical doctor. In this book, he shares the stories of patients with terminal illnesses and patients who are looking for options as they age and become unable to care for themselves independently. He tells of some approaches that have work for nursing homes, assisted living communities, and hospice. Most importantly, he discusses the elephant in the room: why are so many doctors focusing on treatment to prolong patients’ lives, and not on palliative care to make what time they have left more pleasant?

Basically, Gawande comes to the conclusion that doctors and nurses really need to be taught how to get patients to discuss their wishes and goals for long-term care, so that medical staff and the patient (and his or her family) can be more comfortable making the decisions that will make patients’ final days as good as they can be, while avoiding outcomes that the patient doesn’t want.

If you don’t have time to read the book, a list of the questions Gawande suggests that patitents be asked appears in this interview. I suggest that whether or not you choose to read this book, you should read the article and talk to your loved ones about it. Pleasant? Probably not, but useful? Definitely.

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry: a Novel by Rachel Joyce

Jacket

I just looked this book up in our library catalog to find a picture of the cover and saw that its genre link was “humorous stories”. I wonder if the cataloger read the same book I did? This book is many things – sweet, sad, nostalgic, heartbreaking are all words that instantly come to mind – but humorous is NOT a word that I’d throw in, no matter how long I thought of words to describe it. There is humor in there, certainly, but it’s the dry, understated stiff-upper-lipped British kind. Anyway. Harold is an old man with many regrets. He and his wife Maureen barely communicate at all, and he feels as if he cannot exist without annoying her. He receives a goodbye letter from Queenie, a woman he used to work with years ago who is dying in hospice. He decides to send her a letter back, but as he is walking to mail the letter, he decides on the spur of the moment that he needs to go to see her in person. On foot. So despite the fact that he’s wearing a light jacket and boat shoes, and that it’s 600 miles, he does.

As he walks, he thinks. And as he thinks, we learn how Harold got to this point in his life, and the events that shaped his marriage into the prison it has become. We learn who Queenie was and why she was important to Harold. We learn about Harold and Maureen’s son. And as he meets person after person outside of his normal circle, Harold learns more about himself and somehow manages to put his life into perspective. After a lifetime of keeping to himself, he learns to ask for help, and how to give it to others. And as she sits home alone, Maureen thinks and learns as well, developing a friendship with her widower neighbor and rediscovering an old hobby. And that’s the joy of this story, that this older couple with so many hurts saved up over the years can finally realize that all of the things they have been blaming one another for are either their own damn fault or nobody’s fault at all, and it makes no difference which.

I won’t spoil the reveals for you, but many of them triggered a few tears. But despite the fact that the book made me sad, I liked it anyway. It reminds me of Kaye Gibbons’ books (Ellen Foster, A Virtuous Woman) that way. A good hurt.

Now that I think about it, there are some humorous parts in the book, such as when Harold’s pilgrimage becomes “news” and he gains a following sort of like Forrest Gump does. So many people show up to walk with him that he dreams of sneaking away in the night, but how he does finally lose them is pretty funny, looking back at it.