James, a somewhat uninspired son, goes back to his hometown of Buffalo, New York for Thanksgiving to see his parents. While there, he comes face to face with his mother’s dementia and possible impending death. While it is not initially painful for James to visit his hometown, it is not really a joy. He is a mostly mellow character who works for a greeting card company in NYC and is getting by. Once he is home and sees his mother, Ellen’s, current condition he starts to remember a past conversation with her in which she mentioned that if it came to it, she would want assisted suicide to be an option. As a nurse, James knows that she has thought this through. His father, Rodney, is against the idea and doesn't want to discuss it. He is a stereotypical male baby boomer, with the generational traits of a hard worker who swallows his problems and doesn’t complain. As James describes it, “talk about Buffalo lockjaw. He could teach a master class”. There is a nice foreshadowing in the writing about how James will come to find beauty in life’s cruel situations. The cast of his friends and family in this novel help him see his situation differently and add enjoyable depth to the story. Though James has trouble connecting with his father, and it is tough for him to deal with his mother’s decline, the book has a surprising and satisfying ending.
TL:DR- A thoughtful, melancholy, and yet uplifting look at the inevitable and tough choices in life.
Reviewed by Katie Holland, who is a Chicago based artist, creative mind and bookworm.
Publication Date: January 1, 2009 Page Count: 304
ISBN: 1401309801 Publisher: Hachette Books