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"Masterfully-wrought . . . [A] stunning story of caregiving, with its questions of obligation and ethics and what it means to care for someone who, perhaps, didn’t care for you." —The Boston Globe
From the brilliantly original novelist and cultural critic Lynne Tillman comes MOTHERCARE, an honest and beautifully written account of a sudden, drastically changed relationship to one’s mother, and of the time and labor spent navigating the American healthcare system.
When a mother’s unusual health condition, normal pressure hydrocephalus, renders her entirely dependent on you, your sisters, caregivers, and companions, the unthinkable becomes daily life. In MOTHERCARE, Tillman describes doing what seems impossible: handling her mother as if she were a child and coping with a longtime ambivalence toward her.
In Tillman’s celebrated style and as a “rich noticer of strange things” (Colm Tóibín), she describes, without flinching, the unexpected, heartbreaking, and anxious eleven years of caring for a sick parent.
MOTHERCARE is both a cautionary tale and sympathetic guidance for anyone who suddenly becomes a caregiver. 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.
About the Author
Lynne Tillman is a novelist, short story writer, and cultural critic. Her novels are Haunted Houses; Motion Sickness; Cast in Doubt; No Lease on Life, a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award; American Genius, A Comedy, and Men and Apparitions. Her nonfiction books include The Velvet Years: Warhol’s Factory 1965–1967, with photographs by Stephen Shore; Bookstore: The Life and Times of Jeannette Watson and Books & Co.; and What Would Lynne Tillman Do?, a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award in Criticism. She is the recipient of a Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship and The Andy Warhol Foundation Arts Writers Grant. Tillman is Professor/Writer-in-Residence in the Department of English at The University of Albany, and lives in New York with bass player David Hofstra.
"What happens when the parent-child relationship is inverted? Tillman, a novelist and critic, cared for her mother as she neared death, and in this book she captures her shifting feelings and responsibilities in unsparing detail." —The New York Times
"Startling in its blunt, even brutal, refusal of sentimentality." —Jennifer Szalai, The New York Times
"Harrowing . . . MOTHERCARE is revelatory not only for its honest discussion of this thankless task, but also for Tillman’s candor about having her life drip away in service to someone she cares for more than she cares about . . . MOTHERCARE forces us to question our assumptions about what is owed to us and about our responsibility to our family members . . . So many of the revelations of this book—and indeed the predicament that we find ourselves in when caring for others—come down to, as Tillman puts it, learning what we never wanted to know. But it seems unlikely that conditions will improve unless we approach the crisis, as Tillman has done in this book, with unsparing honesty." —Jessica Ferri, Los Angeles Times
"A masterfully-wrought story of ambivalence that is both heartbreaking and exasperating . . . [A] stunning story of caregiving." —Elissa Altman, The Boston Globe
"As Tillman expresses at the outset, each story of caregiving will be defined by the particulars: the medical conditions, the geography, the insurance, the budget, and the people involved, with their pasts and predispositions. Caring for her mother showed Tillman how much she herself had wanted to be cared for, how hard it is to share the burden with anyone else . . . Caring reveals, too, the threadbare nature of the support networks we have to cobble together when, predictably, inevitably, someone needs care; in this country, family obligations remain intensely personal. It is the reason, perhaps, why these common problems remains so uncommonly discussed." —Anna Altman, The New Republic
"Lynne Tillman has a way of perceiving and writing that’s both nuanced and incisive." —Anne Yoder, The Millions, A Most Anticipated Book of the Year
“Both a treatise on the ‘grueling obligation’ of caregiving and an ineffectual American healthcare system, as well as the frank recounting of loving and living with a difficult parent, MOTHERCARE feels particularly apt for an era in which caregivers are more burnt than out than ever (or, perhaps more accurately, an era in which we’re finally paying attention." —Eliza Smith, A Literary Hub Most Anticipated Book of the Year
"[An] unvarnished, bracing, at times funny memoir." —Booklist
"An unsparing and heart-wrenching exploration of serious illness and its impact on everyone it touches." —Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
"Discerning . . . Tillman’s frank insights on love and loss are cannily original." —Publishers Weekly
"MOTHERCARE is a close examination of the American healthcare system, the constraints of family, and the complexities of care. Tillman’s writing is devastating--unsentimental, honest, full of sharp intelligence, and irrepressible wit. MOTHERCARE resonates." —Katie Kitamura, author of Intimacies
"Lynne Tillman’s terrifying, fascinating memoir shows how it is, the intimacy of mother-daughter connection at the ending, close-up, yet playing out within the larger world of race and class. MOTHERCARE is really really real!" —Nell Painter, author of Old in Art School: A Memoir of Starting Over
"We know Lynne Tillman as a brilliant stylist in the first person, but she has never written a work as intimate and frank as MOTHERCARE. This philosophical memoir deepens my admiration for her inimitable sentences, drawing me confidently and calmly into contemplation of two universal, terrifying, awe-inspiring, ever-intertwined themes: death and moms." —Lucy Ives, author of Cosmogony
"Only Lynne Tillman can write a clear-eyed account examining a topic that is anything but clearly comprehensible. This is a book about caring for the ill and dying, loss, regret, resentment, and contradictory emotions; all the mysteries of human attachments through their various transformations. MOTHERCARE is written with lucid, beautifully crafted prose. As in her novels, Tillman makes the ineffable a plain fact through her craft, by defying genres and presenting us with a text that’s impossible to put down despite its difficult subject. This book is a gift that may or may not help caregivers, the grieving, and the dying—but it will certainly do no harm as it honors the fundamental commitment of an ideal physician. And that is a great achievement. The book is a pleasure to read, painful and funny but never maudlin. And that is an even greater achievement." —Gregg Bordowitz, author of Some Styles of Masculinity