Sunday, August 6, 2017

What I Read on My Summer Vacation

Summer is my favorite season, and my favorite activity during summer is catching up on my reading. This time, I have an extra large stack of books to get through because I picked up 25 additional titles at Book Con, some of my favorite authors recently published, and a number of titles about Alzheimer's and dementia are on my list because I'm an administrator for the AlzAuthors website. Here I'll share a few of the books that made me think, made me laugh, and /or made me wish that I had written them. 

Lewy, Mom, and Me: A Caregiver's Story by Peggy Bushy

Blurb: In her seventies, Peggy Bushy’s mother, Francesca, started telling unbelievable stories. She claimed that people were invading her home and trying to kill her. She also became anxious and reclusive. For several discouraging years, Bushy searched in vain for a reason for her mother’s behavior. Finally, Francesca was diagnosed with Lewy Body Dementia. Although it’s the third-most-common cause of dementia, Bushy was unable to find much information on the disease, and the medical community was frustratingly unhelpful. Lewy, Mom, and Me is the book that Bushy wished had been available when her mother was first diagnosed. It details her personal journey of discovery, with all its challenges and revelations, and is written in a compassionate, empathetic style that will comfort any reader dealing with a parent’s decline. Bushy explains how she learned to accept the changes in her mother and to support Francesca emotionally as she grappled with her frightening illness. She also describes what was involved in caring for her mother first at home, then in long-term care, and finally in hospice. Part memoir and part survival guide, this compelling testimony offers support and information for family caregivers of aging parents.

Lewy Body Dementia is not one of the more common or better known dementias, but its impact on those stricken and their families is as devastating and profound as Alzheimer's. In Lewy, Mom, and Me, Peggy Bushy shares the story of her mother's slow descent into the disease, the frightening hallucinations, the difficulties and disappointments with physicians and healthcare professionals who failed to give a proper diagnosis or proper care, and her mother's stubborn denial that anything was wrong at all. This memoir is courageous, raw, and heartbreaking, but also  one of deep, dedicated love. Peggy's strength in finding the source of her mother's strange behaviors and providing care for her long distance, then in her own home, and finally in assisted care with hospice is inspiring. Lewy, Mom, and Me is an excellent addition to a caregiver's library, and belongs on the bookshelves of assisted living and long term care facilities. 

I had the pleasure of meeting Peggy early this summer as we were both selected to present our books to the book club at Harbor Point at Centerville, the first residential assisted living community on Cape Cod exclusively dedicated to serving the needs of individuals with memory loss. She is a lovely Italian woman with a big heart. On July 5, she was featured on the AlzAuthors blog. You can read her post here.

Take a look at Lewy, Mom, and Me on Amazon.

Follow Peggy on Twitter and on her website.


Jaybird's Song by Kathy Wilson Florence

Blurb: Affectionately called “Jaybird” by the father she adores, Josie Flint’s idyllic childhood in 1960s Atlanta is defined by her role as the oldest of the three Flint sisters and crowned with the presence of her grandmother, Annie Jo— the maypole that centers the Flint family. Surrounding their world, however, is the turbulent South as Jim Crow laws come to an end. As Josie’s school desegregates and the country meanders through new ideas brought about by the Civil Rights movement, a personal tragedy breaches Josie’s world and shatters that perfect childhood. Josie’s story is told from her early teenage years and 35 years later when her beloved grandmother dies. And when a long-kept secret unfolds for the Flint family, a new kind of heartache begins.

I received a review copy of this debut novel after meeting the author's publicist at Book Con. The book's premise put it at the top of my to-be-read list. I'm a sucker for southern writers and southern novels. While I enjoyed the story of the Flint sisters and their turbulent childhoods, I felt the book did not live up to its premise as a story of desegregation, Jim Crow, and the racial tensions of the 1960's. These were major themes in the book, but the story tended to meander randomly around other themes: grandmother Annie Jo, Jaybird's teenage years, her sexual awakening, her father's extramarital affair and his death. This, however, did not stop me from enjoying the story. It's rich with turmoil, emotion, and lustrous detail. The characters leap off the pages and the details of life in the 1960's captivated me. It's a great book for those interested in savoring a good read on a hot summer day, in the shade, of course, with a large glass of iced sweet tea. 

Take a look at Jaybird's Song on Amazon.


The Identicals by Elin Hilderbrand

Blurb: Identical twin sisters who couldn't look more alike...or live more differently.

Harper Frost is laid-back, easygoing. She doesn't care what anyone thinks of her. She likes a beer and a shot and wouldn't be caught dead wearing anything fashionable. She's inherited her father's rundown house on Martha's Vineyard, but she can't hold down a job, and her latest romantic disaster has the entire island talking. 

Two beautiful islands only eleven miles apart.

Tabitha Frost is dignified, refined. She prefers a fine wine and has inherited the impeccable taste of her mother, the iconic fashion designer Eleanor Roxie-Frost. She's also inherited her mother's questionable parenting skills--Tabitha's teenage daughter, Ainsley, is in full rebellion mode--and a flailing fashion boutique on Nantucket in desperate need of a cash infusion. 

One unforgettable summer that will change their lives forever.

After more than a decade apart, Harper and Tabitha switch islands--and lives--to save what's left of their splintered family. But the twins quickly discover that the secrets, lies, and gossip they thought they'd outrun can travel between islands just as easily as they can. Will Harper and Tabitha be able to bury the hatchet and end their sibling rivalry once and for all? Before the last beach picnic of the season, there will be enough old resentments, new loves, and cases of mistaken identity to make this the most talked-about summer that Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket have experienced in ages.

How could I get through summer without reading the latest Elin Hilderbrand novel? And this one is not only about Nantucket Island, but Martha's Vineyard as well! This was a stay-up-too-late page-turner of a novel that had me at page one, because it starts off with Nantucket, my favorite of the two islands (sorry MV!) Hilderbrands's skill at creating three dimensional characters and bringing their inner turmoils to life with just a few words is in great form here. Of course I loved the descriptions of the islands, having been to many of these places, but I wasn't too crazy about the constant namedropping of local businesses, restaurants, dishes, etc. Sometimes it seemed like Hilderbrand tried too hard to include these promotional details. Maybe it bugged me because I know most of these places really exist. Other readers may not, and they do  add a richness to the story. Great story arcs all around, from Harper, to Tabitha, to Ainsley, and even to Eleanor. The Identicals is perfect for the beach or poolside. 

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