A Surprisingly Humorous Book About Hospice
This book is about two women, Edith and Ashley, (Edi and Ash), who have been dear friends since early childhood. As the book opens, Edi is being discharged from the hospital to hospice care as she continues her three-year journey through ovarian cancer. Edi and her husband, Jude, live in Brooklyn with their seven-year-old son, Dashiell. Ash and her sort-of-estranged/sort-of-not-estranged husband, Honey, live in Western Massachusetts. Their oldest daughter, Jules, is already off to college, while seventeen-year-old Belle is still at home.
Since Dash has experienced a lot of trauma during his mother’s illness, it is considered to be best for his sake for Edi to go to a hospice facility instead of having home hospice care. When there is no bed available for her in New York, Ash suggests moving her to Massachusetts instead. Jude does not want to take Dash out of school and it is not possible for him to leave Dash behind, so Edi’s care falls to Ash.
This move did not make any sense in my opinion. I could not see a woman separating from her husband and child at a moment like that. But, that’s exactly the way the story was written, so I bought into it and continued reading.
At this point, the book becomes a chronicle of Ash facing Edi’s death more than it is a blow-by-blow report of Edi’s actual dying. Ash is the first-person narrator of the book. She uses the pages to go back and forth in time. When talking about the past, she fills us in on the friendship she and Edi shared. When talking about the present, she either tells us how Edi is doing, or she shows us how much she is struggling as she deals with the impending death of her best friend.
How does she show us? When people are stressed to the max, they sometimes exhibit out-of-character behavior as they seek solace. Drug and alcohol use come easily to mind. In Ash’s case, she turns to sex. She sleeps around a lot, and in every instance is found out by her daughter, Belle. Indeed, in one scene, Belle and she are in the same room with three people with whom she has been intimate – four, if you count her husband. Belle is the one who points this out.
In spite of the fact that this is a story of death, there is a lot of humor as shown in this favorite quote: “We should have known this year was going to be shit when we had that interfaith disaster. Just before New Year’s, our menorah caught the thatched room of our creche on fire, and before we were able to douse it, our curtains were singed, the chimney was burnt off our gingerbread house, and a nearby bowlful of gelt was partially melted.”
Or how about this quote from Ash as she teases her estranged husband about his inability to be a feeling human being as she guesses that “the entirety of [his] New Year’s resolution was to not floss with a too-short piece of floss.”
So yes, there was lots of humor mixed in with lots of pain. It felt like an honest rendering of what it would be like to see a friend through to the end. Evidently this authenticity is due to the author’s experience with such a death. This is the book’s dedication: “For Ali Pomeroy, 1968-2015. Brightest star, most missed.”
It’s a good book! Don’t miss it.