Saturday, May 3, 2014

Living in the Land of Limbo

Every year I teach a class called the Literature of Caregiving where we look at fiction and poetry and plays that touch on caregiving and cancer, and relationships that are changed by illness.

I’ve compiled a long list of books and it is fun to ask other readers what books –that are not self-help or advice—they like that have given then a picture of what it means to be a caregiver or what happens to a relationship when serious illness enters the story.

It has been said that there are only two stories: “A Stranger Comes to Town” or “A Man Goes on a Journey.” Think about it; think about your favorite movie or work of fiction. Then think about cancer: Yes, someone is going on a journey and yes, it’s also true that scary cancer has come to town.

Then consider Alzheimer’s: indeed a stranger comes to town. And for both cancer and Alzheimer’s and every other serious illness: the caregiver is going on a wild and hairy journey.

Now there is a new book that has collected stories of fiction that depict the difficulty of caring for a loved one with a serous illness.

This new anthology called “Living in the Land of Limbo.” The editor is Carol Levine, director of the United Hospital Fund’s Families and Healthcare Project. Levine has organized this anthology by type of relationship: children of aging parents, husbands and wives, parents and children, lovers and friends and even paid caregivers. She includes wonderful stories from Raymond Carver, Rick Moody, Lorrie Moore among other great writers.

This is a book for you the caregiver, you the patient, you the friend and yes, you the healthcare provider. All shame and euphemism are removed. Here illness and caregiving are as real as they can be because, of course, that is what fiction allows.

No comments: