Tag Archives: Death & Dying

Review: Being Mortal

Being Mortal

Being Mortal
By Atul Gawande
Picador USA, 9781250076229, September 2017, 304pp.

The Short of It:

Well written and thought-provoking. If you’ve never thought about losing your independence while battling a long-term/terminal illness, then this will be an eye-opener for you.

The Rest of It:

Atul Gawande was born into a family of doctors. As a doctor and  himself, he became interested in palliative care and how a shift in the care of the terminally ill, can prolong their quality of life. Not cure them, of course, but provide them care by fulfilling such wishes as more time with the family, continuing to teach music, eating ice cream and watching football in the comfort of your own home.

When his own father is diagnosed with cancer, his research in this area becomes personal. How do you treat a patient in this situation? How do you secure a comfortable environment while controlling pain, seeing to their psychological needs and their desire to maintain quality of life?

This was a fascinating read. Gawande discusses the issues with nursing homes and hospice care and points out two very important questions that should be asked of any patient with a terminal illness.

  1. What is your understanding of what you’ve been told?
  2. What is your expectation as far as care?

So often, these critical questions are never asked. It’s assumed that people want to be cured but often, they just want to be pain-free, comfortable and independent. That last part being a huge issue for most. This is a heavy topic but Gawande does a beautiful job highlighting what CAN be done for a positive outcome.

If this topic interests you, get yourself a copy and if you have a chance. Check out his Ted Talk too.

Source: Borrowed
Disclosure: This post contains Indiebound affiliate links.

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Review: Lincoln in the Bardo

Lincoln in the Bardo

Lincoln in the Bardo
By George Saunders
Random House, 9780812995343, February 2017, 368pp.

The Short of It:

A unique and touching story about the loss of a child and what happens next.

The Rest of It:

Young Willie Lincoln dies at a very young age, leaving his father, President Lincoln and his mother Mary, to grieve over his loss.

But…

Willie’s spirit will not leave the cemetery in which he was interred, accompanied by others who have chosen to do the same. For one reason or another, they can’t seem to move out of this “bardo” into the next life yet they all vow to help young Willie because the thought of an innocent child spending eternity in such a grim place, is too much for these characters to bear.

Lincoln in the Bardo includes some very interesting, and sometimes even playful characters and almost reads like a play except that characters express the thoughts and feelings of other characters instead of themselves which takes a little getting used to. But after that, I found myself completely wrapped-up in the story of this young boy trying to find his way.

Things you should know:

  • You won’t learn much about President Lincoln from this novel.
  • Many of the works cited are fictional.
  • There are a lot of characters (160+)
  • Even though the afterlife is discussed, no one religion is emphasized.
  • You will be Googling for Civil War facts while reading, but I suggest you read first and Google later.
  • It helps to have a basic understanding of the Bardo and what it is.

Lincoln in the Bardo is beautifully written.  I highlighted many sentences and I don’t often do that. The subject matter is somewhat somber but it’s lightened-up by the playfulness of the characters. It’s tragic in that these characters can never correct their mistakes and as a result live forever in regret but it has stayed with me long after finishing it and the image of these spirits spending eternity in the cemetery is haunting. Check out this virtual reality experience to get a feel for what I am talking about:

Go to this page and scroll down to the bottom to view. Once there, click around to explore.

I know some readers are divided over the book but I loved it and my book club had plenty to discuss when we met. I plan to buy a copy as soon as the paperback comes out in February.

Source: Borrowed
Disclosure: This post contains Indiebound affiliate links.