Saturday, 26 November 2022

When a Book Hits So Close to Home: The Lady With The Crown



When I was very young, I wished for some big event to happen to me, something truly dramatic - tragic, even. I hadn't yet heard the expression "Be careful what you wish for." 

I was 16 when my father had his first of three strokes. I remember the day - I was sitting in class. The sun was streaming through the window (for some reason I recall white, very bright light) and when the principle called me to the hallway, I felt special and important. My next memory is standing in the office, telephone in hand. My mother was telling me that Dad was in the hospital and had suffered a stroke. I must come immediately. What was a stroke? I don't remember how I got to the hospital, but I do recall standing at the foot of my Dad's hospital bed beside my sister, frozen in fear as he urgently "spoke" to me and my sister. Except it wasn't speech, it was garbled nonsense. I fled. Years later, I reflected sadly that he was probably trying so hard to reassure us that he was fine. 

I've just finished reading The Lady With the Crown - A Story of Resilience by Kathleen Canrinus. I devoured this riveting memoir over the course of today. I literally could not put it down. Kathleen's mother Dorothy was a larger than life, boisterous and willful community leader of sorts before a traumatic brain injury profoundly changed her and shattered the family life that Kathleen had known. Kathleen and her brother were teenagers, transformed in a day from sullen and distracted to urgently longing for their Mom to whole again. 

This book is for anyone who loves a great memoir, that goes without saying. But it will be especially meaningful (as it was for me) for those who have given intensive care to a loved one over many years. And Kathleen Canrinus did this for her mother in spades. The personal transformations that took place in the author's family and the making peace with unfairness is what struck me. Like my own mother whom I've written about here many times (such as HERE shortly after her death), Dorothy was a potent mix of sometimes infuriating opposites. But the author does not waste words, nor does she romanticise the events of her caregiving relationship. The language is spare and sometimes as she described disastrous events, I imagined her typing out the words, head turned away and eyes shut tight. 

But this is a book that is ultimately uplifting. Because although Kathleen Canrinus' caregiving experience was completely unique, she generously invites readers like me to reflect on our own lifetime of caring as we empathise with hers. 

I highly recommend this book and I'm going to give it to my sister. Then we're going to pick apart our memories and continue the job of making peace with what happened in our family. 

4 comments:

Unknown said...

Oh My. Will search it out. Your last line resonnated strongly...pick apart what happened...and presumably how to heal. Thank you Donna.

The Caregivers' Living Room said...

It is such a wonderful book and it's available on kindle as well as paperback. Let me know what you think if you read it! I just LOVED it.

Anonymous said...

What a wonderful book!

Gretchen Staebler said...

Thank you for this. I will look for it.