When successful New York magazine and book editor George Hodgman returns to his hometown of Paris, Missouri, for his mother’s 91st birthday, he comes to the heartbreaking realization that his once-indomitable mother has lost her driver’s license and is not really able to live independently. His planned visit of two weeks stretches on, and he continues to work from Paris as a freelance editor.
This situation becomes the basis for a memoir that is both painful and funny at the same time. Hodgman’s mother, Betty, is the kind of character fiction writers would dream about being able to create. Smart, fiercely independent, a superb pianist and killer bridge player, she is fighting her mental and physical decline with everything she’s got. With no confidence in his ability to take on the role of caregiver (“I am a care inflictor… I am the Joan Crawford of eldercare”), George forges ahead nonetheless.
Going back and forth in time, Hodgman describes feeling as a child that he was “not right” and realizing his homosexuality as a teen. He writes with passion about his experience as a gay man in New York during the AIDS crisis of the 1980s and with candor about his personal experience with addiction and recovery. He feels certain his father suspected his homosexuality, but the subject was never discussed. Despite a troubling awareness that his parents could never accept this integral part of his being, he never doubts the depth of their obvious, unconditional love. He returns it with a stubborn determination to face the challenging task of caring for his mother.
Hodgman tells his often difficult life story in a way that, while sometimes depressing, is witty and engaging and captures perfectly the anguish of those trying to parent a parent. CV
Sally Wisdom retired from the Des Moines Public Library in 2011 and found her dream job at Beaverdale Books soon after.