Sometimes Dee shuts her eyes and imagines flying like a bird, simply floating high above everything. But that’s impossible without wings. And besides, she has to take care of her mother, Bessie, which is ironic, since her brother, Georgie, was Bessie’s favorite child.
Ignored by her mother as a child, Dee has been Bessie’s caregiver (feeding, washing, wiping, and tending) for nearly a decade. But now, in 2008, Bessie has begun wandering and seeing things that aren’t there. Dee’s full-time caregiver job is intensifying—add tracking, trailing, soothing, and reassuring. Plus there’s increasing financial pressures.
She’ll never fly. Caregiver. She’s the caregiver and it’s pretty well known that care-getters often outlive their caregivers.
And then there’s Georgie, the dimpled, handsome son, they see him on his TV commercials, rarely in person. But now, he’s started coming around. What’s he up to?
Publication Date: Oct 2, 2017
Dee Ellison Chope, 64, lives with her 90-year-old mother, Bessie, whose mental faculties have deteriorated enough that she requires nearly constant supervision. Meanwhile, her younger brother, Georgie, always favored by Bessie and forever selfish, schemes to purloin the house for his own financial self-aggrandizement, even in advance of Bessie’s death. Separated from her grown-up children, widowed, and tasked with caring for a mother she had a difficult relationship with, Dee finds her life stalled, until she gives romance another try. Arbor’s (Intentional, 2015) lucid prose poignantly captures Dee’s ambivalence about a family she loves, but that often disappoints her: “Her brother murdered her favorite doll. He never touched or hurt any of her other dolls, so he wasn’t a serial killer. He just chose the prettiest, the one with her dress perfectly arranged on a messy shelf, the one she loved the most—the one her father gave her.” ...Dee is bottomless in her complexity, a woman coping with her mother, mortality, and a bird in the house (“Dee still had most of her marbles, and however much she wanted to, she couldn’t blank out the image of the dead bird she’d discovered in the fireplace that morning. A bird in the house is bad luck. Someone’s gonna die”). She’s a protagonist worthy of the reader’s gripping interest. A beautifully written story about loss and second chances.
This slow-moving yet compelling novel focuses on an infrequently explored circumstance: that of a daughter trapped in the role of being her mother's caregiver. Arbor alternates between elderly Bessie's drawl and the narrative voice of dejected and disheartened Dee, infusing the narrative with frequent humor as the story explores topics like end-of-life arrangements, elder care, and abuse. Arbor's novel pays a degree of homage to many classic works of feminism and narratives of oppression. As such, the novel's central theme of captivity is not a new one, but Arbor effectively tells the intriguing story of an older woman who is ethically imprisoned in her mother's house. Arbor clearly establishes the delicate history of this mother-daughter relationship, as well as their subsequent dysfunctional relationships with the world outside of their house, haunted by family memories and emotional abuse among relatives.
Funny and Sad. This well-written story is moving, funny, and sad. I wasn't sure that I would like it, but it drew me in and I couldn't put it down. It is so true to life as we get older, that I am still thinking about it! Being a former Detroiter, I loved the descriptions of the greater Detroit area. I really enjoyed this book.
Great story! Fantastic writing. I’m hoping for a sequel, so I can follow Dee’s life through many more chapters. The bird proverbs at the beginning of each chapter were fun. I’ll have to reread it and count all the ways birds show up in the story. Two birds in the house are good luck. This book made me laugh and cry at the same time. Especially loved the superb ending. I want more!