Mid-life mom, Colleen Gallagher, would do anything to protect her children from harm. When her daughter’s husband falls ill with ALS, Colleen rolls up her sleeves and moves in, juggling the multiple roles of grandma, cook, and caregiver, only to discover that even her superhuman efforts can’t fix what’s wrong.
Hands up all those with children who would rather be sick themselves than have one of their kids come down with something. It's bad enough when it's just a cold or a 24-hour bug. When the illness is more serious, even life-threatening, the pain and stress is unimaginable.
The wear and tear on a soul does not lessen even if the person ailing is an adult family member (or friend).
Enter Colleen Callagher, a woman who single-handedly raised three children after her husband was killed rather early on. See Colleen go, as many grandmas do (if they are able), to help out at her daughter's house when the birth of her 2nd grandchild approaches. See Colleen learn that her son-in-law Tony has ALS (aka Lou Gehrig's), a terminal disease.
Goodness knows, it's hard to be polite and thoughtful when you are ill or under extreme stress. But Sandy (the daughter) and Tony ... how can I put this diplomatically? No, it can't be done. The farther along you go in the book, the worse their behavior and rudeness become. The first glaring incident is when Sandy is home from the hospital and Tony tells (not asks, tells) his parents to leave because they are keeping Sandy up. Again, yes, they are under stress, but so is everyone that loves them.
Sandy even starts pulling away from the marriage. She goes out more and more with friends and movie clubs and even starts wanting to keep company with a man who has been helping fix up the house. On the one hand, she does need a break now and again. All caregivers do - it is not a job for the faint of heart. But Sandy takes more and more time off for herself. while increasing her demands on family and friends who are ready and willing to step in to help out, and at the same time criticizing them. She goes so far as to call her mother and two other helpers "the three terrible substitutes" to her mother's face.
Montpelier Tomorrow was not an easy book to read. I've been known to read hours at a time, but could not with this book. The emotional toll is unbelievable. So I would read a chapter or two, then watch a British comedy, or play with the dogs, or chat with my husband about our days. Then I would go back and read some more.
Dealing with a chronic or terminal disease is not easy. The pain, heartbreak and stress of the situation is unrelenting and progressive. People outside the inner circle struggle with how to interact with the person who is ailing and/or the person's family. There are awkward social moments. I will hazard a guess that Montpelier Tomorrow is a fairly accurate view of the various issues involved, from the 'patient's' (sorry could not think of a more pc/appropriate word), the family's, and the family's circle of friends and acquaintances.
Therein, for me, lies the strength of this book. It is much 'heavier' than my usual reads. And it may never make it to the big screen with big name stars, a la Gone With the Wind. But it would make one heck of a Lifetime movie!
MEET THE AUTHOR
A former carpenter and mother of five, Marylee MacDonald began writing when her last child left for college. Her fiction has won the Jeanne Leiby Chapbook Award, the Barry Hannah Prize, the Ron Rash Award, the Matt Clark Prize, and the ALR Fiction Award. Her novel, Montpelier Tomorrow, was a Finalist in the 2014 IPPY Awards and the Faulkner-Wisdom Prize. She is widely published in literary magazines such as American Literary Review, Bellevue Literary Review, Folio, Blue Moon Literary & Art Review, Broad River Review, Four Quarters, New Delta Review, North Atlantic Review, Raven Chronicles, Reunion: The Dallas Review, River Oak Review, Ruminate, StoryQuarterly, The Briar Cliff Review, and Yalobusha Review.
Find out more about Marylee at her website, see what she’s pinning on Pinterest, and connect with her on Facebook and Twitter. You can also follow her blog and add her to your circles on Google+.
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(Disclosure: I received a print copy of this book from the author and publishers via TLC Book Tours in exchange for my honest and unbiased review.)