When it became clear that Bloom’s husband had Alzheimer’s and not just a case of Mild Cognitive Impairment, he insisted that he’d “rather die on my feet than live on my knees, “and it became Bloom’s job “to figure out how.” Her powerful, clear-eyed, and often remarkably funny memoir reports the inexorable stages of this terrifying disease and the attendant magical thinking, along with the couple’s somewhat race-the-clock efforts to let Brian exit while still the “loving, goofy, candy-sharing, soft-touch Babu” they wanted the grandchildren to remember. Bloom quickly exhausted the possibilities of U.S. right-to-die laws, frustrated at the deliberately narrow provisions of physician-assisted suicide, which didn’t match their goals at all. A better fit was with the Swiss organization, Dignitas, which offers “accompanied suicide” for those wishing to escape old age, or terminal illness, or some unbearable pain or disability. Since 1988 it has helped more than 3,000 end their lives as they wished. In what is at once a victory and a loss, Bloom’s husband met the stringent requirements—“sad…kinda angry...but not afraid.”
This extraordinary memoir--a daughter’s memoir, says the subtitle--has been out for a few years but is timeless in its power and message. Tretheway, a Pulitzer Prize-winning former Poet Laureate, returns to a subject that has haunted her since the day it happened: the murder of her mother by her second husband outside the apartment building where they lived in Atlanta. It takes years for Tretheway to fully revisit the pain of that tragedy and explore the underlying contributions of race, gender, class, and historical legacy to her mother’s death, and to the broader subject of violence against women, especially Black women. Tretheway takes the reader on this elegiac journey of discovery, one that plumbs very dark places but finds light and hope at the end. Not surprisingly, Tretheway’s prose is poetic—her book a beautifully written tale of finding oneself, one’s place, and one’s home as society’s cross-currents swirl around you.
Michelle Zauner, founder of the band Japanese Breakfast, begins her book grieving over her mother’s death and seeking refuge in the aisles of H Mart, the Asian grocery store filled with foods she associates with her mother’s cooking. Growing up Korean-American in Eugene, Oregon, food was central to Zauner’s family life. But coming of age, food was not enough to transcend tricky cultural and generational divides with her mother. Zauner left for college to chart her path as a creative artist and cement her own identity. Her mother’s diagnosis with cancer, when Zauner was in her early 20s, altered the mother-daughter dynamic, shrinking the geographic and emotional distance between them and paving the way for a deeper, more accepting relationship. Zauner’s writing is evocative throughout, especially her sensorial descriptions of food and her moving narration of her mother’s illness and passing.