For readers of Still Alice and The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, an honest and straightforward account of the emotions surrounding a sudden and drastically changed relationship with one’s own mother, the time and labor spent navigating the American healthcare system, and the acute guilt that oftentimes couples with straddling obligation and ambivalence.
When a parent’s unusual health condition renders her entirely dependent upon you, your siblings, caretakers, and companions, the unimaginable will become daily life.
Iconic New York writer Lynne Tillman found herself one of nearly 53 million other Americans who care for a sick family member when her mother became ill with an unusual and little understood condition called Normal Pressure Hydrocephalus.
From one day to the next, Tillman’s previously independent and spirited mother went from someone she knew to someone else, becoming entirely dependent on her children in the process. Solving the mystery of how to cure or even treat the condition meant seven surgeries, several misdiagnoses and incorrect prescriptions, confrontations with doctors, and coping with the complications associated with memory loss.
With her notoriously exquisite writing style and reputation as a “rich noticer of strange things” (Colm Toibin), Tillman frankly describes the unexpected, heartbreaking, and frustrating years of caring for a dying parent.
Mothercare is at once a cautionary tale and a reverential invitation for any caretaker who can relate to suddenly becoming responsible for the life management practices of a parent, loved or not. This story may be helpful, informative, consoling, or upsetting, but it never fails to underscore how impossible it is to get the job done completely right.