Book Reviews 195 does not gloss the ugly realities of aging and the difficult choices that families must make. What she does do is show respect for everyone involved and write with--not about--beauty. Here is her father: "And the sudden, garbled speech. He'd wake in the morning to find another part of him had flown off in the night" (151). For all Putnam's erudition, her touchstones in this book are not literary; they're family stories, dreams, sometimes popular culture (shared television programs, songs, baseball). I might have expected more references to literature in such a book, beyond the ones to Thoreau and his metaphors that show up early. I kept thinking, surely this Hemingway scholar will have something to say about Hemingway's suicide or the renewal his war-torn Nick Adams found in "Big Two-Hearted River"; surely she'll then launch into a consideration of suicide as an end-of-life choice, or she'll reflect on nature's healing qualities. Or perhaps she'd relate to another text about caring for an elderly parent, such as Oregonian John Daniel's award-winning Looking After: A Son's Memoir (1996). The lack of such contextualizing, however, may well be offset by the purity of the experience Putnam so
Western American Literature – The Western Literature Association
Published: Aug 13, 2010
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