She Writes Press

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The Space Between: A Memoir Of Mother-Daughter Love At The End Of Life – Virginia A. Simpson

Published July 28, 2016 by bibliobeth

26779736

What’s it all about?:

As a bereavement care specialist, Dr. Virginia Simpson has devoted her career to counseling individuals and families grappling with illness, death, and grieving. But when her own mother, Ruth, is diagnosed in 1999 with a life-threatening condition, Virginia is caught off guard by the storm of emotions she experiences when she is forced to inhabit the role of caregiver. In a quest to provide her mother with the best care possible, Virginia arranges for Ruth to move in with her and for the next six years, she cares for her, juggling her mother s doctor s appointments, meals, medication schedules, transportation needs, and often cranky moods with her own busy schedule. In The Space Between, Simpson takes readers along for the journey as she struggles to bridge the invisible, often prickly space that sits between so many mothers and daughters, and to give voice to the challenges, emotions, and thoughts many caregivers experience but are too ashamed to admit. Touching and vividly human, The Space Between reminds us all that without accepting the inevitability of death and looking ahead to it with clarity, life cannot be fully lived.

What did I think?:

First of all, many thanks to the author and publishers of this emotional memoir, She Writes Press, for providing me with a free copy in return for an honest review. I’ve got quite a strong relationship with my own mother and when I read the synopsis of this book, I knew I was going to be in for quite a heart-breaking ride. Well, I wasn’t wrong. This is a fantastic piece of non-fiction that explores the author’s own relationship with her mother as she faces chronic illness and the thing most people dread – old age and the inevitability of death peeking round the corner.

Ginni takes most (well actually, ALL) of the responsibility for her mother’s health and well-being on her own shoulders. She has quite a frayed relationship with her older brother Peter after suffering physical and emotional abuse from him when they were younger and indeed, he doesn’t seem to be particularly interested in many of the decisions Ginni has to make. She takes her mother into her own house as she can’t face putting her in a care home although before long, the strain it places on her both physically and mentally becomes too much and also threatens the solidity of the “up and down” relationship that they do have.

What I loved so much about this book was how brutally honest it is and I really feel for the author as it must have been quite a traumatic, although hopefully cathartic experience to write and re-live her personal experiences with her mother. Her mother does love her, that much is clear – but she has a bit of a funny way of showing it sometimes, especially when it comes to her brother Peter who Ginni believes was the “favourite” of the family. It represents such an authentic mother-daughter relationship – the bumps in the road, the rebellions, the arguments and tears but at the end, such a deep love that cannot be taken away or denied.

I already knew before I began this book that I was going to be quite affected by it but I never realised how much until I started reading. It’s very rare that a book makes me sob but with this one, some things just hit a little close to home and I really felt like I could sympathise and identify with Ginni. Even though the author works with those who have become bereaved I don’t think anything can prepare you for the death of a parent and I can only hope that when I have to suffer this terrible experience, I can be half as strong as Ginni was. This is a no holds barred, true and very raw story of the love between parents and their children and I want to thank the author for sharing her life and innermost feelings in such a beautiful way.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

The End Of Miracles – Monica Starkman

Published June 1, 2016 by bibliobeth

27037957

What’s it all about?:

Margo Kerber has endured difficult years battling infertility while trying to sustain her good marriage and satisfying career. When a seemingly miraculous pregnancy ends in a late miscarriage, Margo is devastated. For a time, the unshakable yet false belief that she is pregnant again provides relief from all-consuming grief. When her fantasy inevitably clashes with reality, Margo falls into a deep depression requiring admission to a psychiatric unit. Uncertain if the sometimes chaotic environment there is helping or making her worse, she seizes an opportunity to flee. Alone on the city streets, new fantasies propel her to commit a crime with devastating consequences for herself and others.
Written by a prominent psychiatrist, this stirring portrait of one woman’s psychological unravelling takes readers on a journey across the blurred boundaries between sanity and depression, madness and healing.”

What did I think?:

First of all, many thanks to the lovely people at She Writes Press for providing me with a digital copy of this fascinating debut novel in exchange for an honest review. I have to be perfectly honest and say that I didn’t find this an easy read at all – the subject matters of infertility, miscarriage and mental health touch into some of my worst fears but ultimately I found this story to be a very rewarding one and a highly emotional reading experience.

Our main character is Margo Kerber, an intelligent and compassionate woman who works as a hospital administrator and volunteers part-time with children in the hospital who are ill and just require some comfort and a bit of cheering up and at a home for young people with severe mental health difficulties. She is married to Steven, who is successful in his own right and their marriage is primarily a happy one although they both feel that having a child would make their family complete.

Unfortunately, after some time of “trying,” the couple are given the devastating news that it is unlikely that they will ever conceive which breaks both their hearts but especially Margo, who always felt she was born to be a mother. Then one day, a miracle occurs, Margo finds out she is pregnant but their happiness is short-lived when she loses the baby. I don’t want to give too much more away but this event and others that follow send our poor protagonist into a spiral of grief, severe depression and frightening psychosis that leads to her marriage teetering on a knife edge. Margo must now go through extensive therapy examining both her traumatic past and painful present and a little soul searching if she is to recover some of the person she once was and regain hope for her future.

So, as you can imagine from this little summary, this book is tough but if you can handle the triggers it may invoke, it is a hugely important and powerful read. The author has many years of experience behind her as a psychiatrist and it is clear how much of her personal knowledge and experience was put into the novel which I really appreciated as a reader. I was also pleasantly surprised by how beautifully written some of the prose was which for me is always a bonus in a novel and clearly demonstrates a creative and imaginative mind. Everything about it was so very believable, including the characters and plot and although it raised quite a few painful emotions as I read it, I’m so very glad I did.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

 

Shelter Us – Laura Nicole Diamond

Published June 11, 2015 by bibliobeth

23116509

What’s it all about?:

Since the death of her newborn baby, lawyer-turned-stay-at-home mom Sarah Shaw has been struggling to keep it together for her law professor husband and two young sons. With her husband burying himself in his career and her friendships all having withered, she is lost in a private world of grief. Then one day, walking in LA, Sarah s heart catches at the sight of a young homeless woman pushing a baby in a stroller and saving them becomes her mission. An unlikely bond grows between Sarah and the mother, Josie, whose pride and strained relationship with her own mother prevent her from going home to Oakland. Through her friendship with Josie, Sarah slowly learns that those we love are never far, even in death and that sometimes it is the people we set out to save who save us. Shelter Us speaks to the quiet joys and anxieties of parenthood, and illuminates the place all parents know: that shadowy space between unconditional love and fear of unbearable loss.

What did I think?:

I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review, so thank you very much to She Writes Press for the opportunity to read a novel that had me instantly intrigued by the synopsis. As the story begins our main character Sarah Shaw and her husband Robert are struggling to deal with their inner turmoil after losing their baby daughter at only a few weeks of life. They have managed to have two healthy baby boys, Oliver and Izzy but Sarah is constantly petrified that something terrible is going to happen that will take them away from her as well. Her husband, Robert, is sensitive to her pain and is trying to mask his own the best that he can by throwing himself into his work. This however, has stay at home mother Sarah feeling even more pressurised to “get over it,” and continue her life – a difficult thing for her to imagine doing when she keeps seeing her baby girl’s face everywhere and doubting her skills at motherhood.

Then one day, on a very difficult trip out with the boys she sees a young woman pushing a pram with a baby inside. The woman is homeless and Sarah’s heart immediately goes out to her plight. On impulse, she takes one of the boy’s lunch boxes and chases after the woman so that she can give her the little food that she has available. At home, Sarah cannot get the woman and her child out of her head and wants to help her find a way out of her situation. When she suggests to Robert that perhaps they might be able to house the woman and child she is told that on no terms would this be a possibility. Sarah is not dissuaded by Robert’s attitude and is sure that she must be able to help in some way. She begins to form a relationship with the woman – Josie and her little boy whose malnourished appearance for his age breaks her heart. However, how far is Sarah prepared to go to help her new friend? And will the consequences of her actions affect her already fragile relationship with her husband?

This novel was a pleasant surprise on so many levels for me. I love an author who is not afraid to tackle tough or sensitive issues and I thought the death of Sarah’s baby was handled absolutely beautifully. It will hopefully give some comfort to those poor parents who have actually gone through this horrific event and new parents who are nervous about their own parenting skills. I also enjoyed reading about the relationship between Sarah and Robert, both how they deal with their own personal grief and how they respond to each other. The author surprised me often (and I do like to be surprised) as at first, I assumed this was a novel about parenthood and how it feels to lose a child. It is so much more than that. The story takes an unexpected turn when Sarah responds to Josie’s call for help, never imagining that during this process she will be tested in ways she could never have believed. The characters are fabulous, flawed, brilliant and most importantly HUMAN. I didn’t really have a favourite, every one seemed to bring something different and fresh to the table and I thoroughly enjoyed discovering what they had to offer. This is the author’s debut novel and I feel that Laura Nicole Diamond is definitely an author to watch out for in the future!

The lovely people at She Writes Press have authorised a giveaway on bibliobeth for one lucky person to see what Shelter Us is all about for themselves. Enter below and good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Please note: giveaway only available for UK/USA residents 

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0