'I am pleased to have been invited to review So Far Away: A Daughter's Memoir of Life, Loss, and Love by Christine W. Hartmann as part of her virtual book tour with TLC Books
From the Publisher:
Christine Hartmann’s mother valued control above all else, yet one event appeared beyond her command: the timing of her own death. Not to be denied there either, two decades in advance Irmgard Hartmann chose the date on which to end her life. And her next step was to tell her daughter all about it. For twenty years, Irmgard maintained an unwavering goal, to commit suicide at age seventy. She managed her chronic hypertension, stayed healthy and active, and lived life to the fullest. Meanwhile, Christine fought desperately against the decision. When Irmgard wouldn’t listen, the only way to remain part of her life was for Christine to swallow her mother’s plans–hook, line, and sinker.
Christine’s father, as it turned out, prepared too slowly for old age. Before he had made any decision, fate disabled him through a series of strokes. Confined to a nursing home, severely impaired by dementia and frustrated by his circumstances, his life epitomized the predicament her mother wanted to avoid.
So Far Away gives us an intimate view of a person interacting with and reacting to her parents at the end of their lives. In a richly detailed, poignant story of family members’ separate yet interwoven journeys, it underscores the complexities and opportunities that life presents each one of us.
This book brought my emotions to the surface many times. I think, for me, the journey that both intrigued and repulsed me was that of the author's mother - to plan your own suicide and share that knowledge with others with decades to go is both empowering and unnerving. I think what I struggled most with is the way that I've experienced loss in my own life. My grandfather, who was always one of the strongest men I know is in a battle with dementia that threatens his very core - he struggles every day to be the man he is... and he's still fighting. He asks the same questions, reads the same book - my grandmother's memoirs, looks at the same pictures and never remembers eating anything... but he's still fighting. My wonderful sister in law was only 31 when she died, leaving Robyn to grow up with pictures of her mom instead of a live body to hold, and I know that she'd have taken any steps necessary to live to a ripe old age.
The way this author shares her story and that of her parents allows us as the reader to shape our own opinions within the context and also helps us to explore our own reactions to grief and death within the context of her memoir and our own consciousness. This is an extremely well written book that takes a tough subject and opens us up to it by allowing us to invade the author's world, and her mind as she struggles with depression, grief and a multitude of other emotions.
I can't say that this is a feel-good, fun read, but it is definitely worth adding to your TBR pile if you are ready for some introspection and emotion.
About the Author:
Christine W. Hartmann is a researcher in the Veterans Health Administration and an assistant professor at Boston University. She received her PhD at the Bryn Mawr Graduate School of Social Work and Social Research. She has published numerous articles on healthcare quality improvement, focusing particularly on long-term care. To learn more about Ms. Hartmann and her work, please visit her website at www.chartmannbooks.com.
One lucky reader from the US or Canada will win a paperback copy of So Far Away: A Daughter's Memoir of Life, Loss, and Love
Disclaimer: I received a copy of the book at no cost to me for the purpose of writing this review. ALl opinions are my own.