Tag Archive | death

Double book review: In Memoriam; The Borrower

In MemoriamIn Memoriam by Nathan Burgoine

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

It’s nearly impossible to review this novella without spoilers, so let me just say this: James Daniels found a unique way to deal with the memory loss that accompanies his brain cancer, and said method is lovely and satisfying and heartwarming and sweet.

A beautiful piece of writing.

The BorrowerThe Borrower by Rebecca Makkai

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Lucy Hull has a favorite library patron, young Ian Drake. Unfortunately, Ian’s mother doesn’t approve of Ian’s reading tastes, nor of Ian himself, apparently. Early one morning, Lucy opens the library to find Ian camped out in the stacks, having run away from home. He convinces Lucy to take him somewhere else, and she obliges.

What follows is a haphazard road trip from somewhere in Missouri to Chicago and Pittsburgh and points northeastward, all directed more or less by the boy in the passenger seat, with Lucy’s passive acquiescence masking her inner turmoil at being led around by the nose by a 10-year-old. But this journey isn’t about Ian, really; it’s about Lucy coming to terms with her passive acquiescence of everything except her family legacy; and how family shapes who we are whether we like it or not; and how blood will out, regardless.

I thoroughly enjoyed this novel. The short chapters written in the style of various children’s books were amusing and poignant and sharply aimed.

Highly recommended.

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Sweet dreams, Jacquenetta

With heavy hearts, my husband and I announce the loss of our beloved and beautiful Jacquenetta, age 20 years, 10 months, and two weeks.

Jacquenetta entered my life as a six-week-old kitten in late March 1994. She was one of two kittens that came home with me from the Garland County (Arkansas) Animal Shelter (the other kitten, Puck, was sadly lost in the woods several months later). She was quiet and affectionate and loved sitting Baby Q 1behind me on the back of the sofa so she could groom my hair.

She was a mighty hunter in her day, a terror to the local rodent and bird population. Many’s the day I came home from work to find an offering on the front porch: a field mouse, a vole, the occasional sparrow, once even a baby rabbit. Then came the day she hopped in through the hole in the screen door and dropped a bluejay at my feet. A live bluejay, which promptly flew about my kitchen in a panic while I chased it around with a dishtowel until I managed to herd it out the back door.

Q and Teenage MoteWhen Jacquenetta was about three years old, I brought another rescued kitten home and Miss Q immediately began mothering him. She and Mote became bosom companions, and could be found snuggled up together most evenings.

Snuggle KittiesAfter my husband and I met, moved in together, then married, Jacquenetta became a well-traveled kitty, because that’s when we started moving around a lot. She became an indoor kitty, as well, because when we moved, it was out of the country and into town. She never lost her sense of adventure despite her confinement to well-defined square footage. Bill and Miss Q on the LedgeIn fact, she scared me nearly to death when we lived in a condominium with a 20-foot vaulted ceiling and a plant shelf at about the 12-foot mark. I looked up one fine day and saw her on that plant shelf, shrieked, and sent spouse upstairs to coax her off the shelf. She cooperated, and we blocked the pass-through to deny her future access.

Due to either my work or spouse’s work, we moved from that condo in South Arkansas to another condo in Little Rock and then to a house in the Quapaw Quarter; from there we went to California for a few years; returned to the South in 2010, and finally we landed in the Atlanta metro in early 2013. During those years we added two Pomeranians to the household. All animals handled the moves well, including being driven across country twice.

Playkitty1And somewhere during all these moves, Jacquenetta found time to pose for Kitty Hustler. Okay, not really, but that’s what we called it whenever she sprawled out on the sofa like she was waiting for someone to hand her a beer and the TV remote.

It was shortly after we moved to Atlanta that I noticed Jacquenetta wasn’t her usual self. She spent most of her day upstairs, away from the exuberance of the dogs and the noise of the television. She would come downstairs to eat and use her box and for the occasional snuggle with me or Mote, but generally she could be found in the dimness of the upstairs hall just outside the door to the guest bedroom. I put it down to her age but I watched her. We started getting more concerned when she could no longer groom Warm Noses 3herself as usual and became matted in her hindquarters. She also couldn’t tolerate being brushed for long, so keeping the matting under control became difficult. Then one day last April, she had a horrific seizure. Spouse and I rushed her to the vet, who kept her several days for observation and testing, and then delivered the diagnosis: end stage renal failure. This condition could be managed for a while, but in the end, it would be fatal.

“Is she hurting?” I asked. “No,” said the vet. “It’s painless.”

Spouse and I chose to manage Jacquenetta’s condition at home, with medication to prevent seizures and twice-weekly subcutaneous fluids. We ground the Valium and calcium into a fine powder and mixed it into soft foods; we hung the IV bag from the dining room light fixture while we pumped saline solution under the skin between her shoulders. Mote recognized his life-long companion was desperately ill, and spent as much time snuggled up with her as he could. We also let her outside now and then to bask in the sunshine on sun-warmed concrete.

Miss Q in the Sunshine

Jacquenetta 12-30-14
Shortly before Thanksgiving, I noticed Jacquenetta no longer climbed upstairs; instead, she lay across one of the floor vents downstairs for the warm air rising through the register. I laid a towel across the vent so her paws wouldn’t get caught in the grating and told spouse it wouldn’t be long now. A couple of weeks later, we put up the Christmas tree and spread the skirt out in such a way that her preferred floor vent was covered and she could still rest on top of the warm air. She stopped eating the Sunday or Monday after Christmas; when I came home from work Tuesday, spouse said she was passing blood in her urine. We called the vet and we all agreed it was time.

I left work early Wednesday and we took Jacquenetta to the clinic. They wrapped her in a soft fleece blanket and let me hold her while they administered the medicine that would let her rest. Spouse and I both petted her and loved her and talked to her while she went to sleep for the last time.

Sweet dreams, baby. You were loved so very very much.

Jacquenetta

Jacquenetta, 2/15/1994-12/31/2014

Book review: The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein

The Art of Racing in the RainThe Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

Enzo the large breed mutt tells us the story of Denny Smith, a mechanic with a passion and talent for high-performance racing: his life as a single man, his courtship of and marriage to Eve, the birth of their daughter Zoe, the death of Eve from cancer, and the fallout from that untimely passing.

The life of one family as seen through the eyes of their dog is not the type of novel I would normally choose. But The Art of Racing in The Rain was a book group selection; so, like a good little group member, I bought it. Then I moved and left that book group behind. Thus, Garth Stein’s book sat on the To Be Read shelf for many many months.

After I finally decided to read it, I nearly put it down when the first chapter made me cry. Wiping my tears, I persevered. About halfway through the book, I got so angry at the direction of the storyline, I nearly put it down. But I cheated and turned to the last few pages of the book to find out the resolution to that particular turn of events. What I saw convinced me to go ahead and finish the story. Grudgingly.

In other words, I did not enjoy the time spent reading this book. That one star rating has nothing to do with the quality of the writing, which is excellent; or the development of the characters, who are fully-fleshed for the most part; or the voice of the narrator, which is surprisingly enchanting.

It’s just that books with animal narrators almost never end well, and that tends to make me rather angry. I generally don’t enjoy fiction that makes me angry.

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