Addendum: My Sunshine Away: Dark, Engaging and an Appeal to Be a Good Man

My Sunshine Away by M.O. Walsh

Published 2015

Read 2/14/2017

Book Club discussion:  3/14/2017

As I routinely experience, Book Club discussions enhance my understanding and/or appreciation for the books I read, especially ones with which I’ve struggled a bit.  That was the case again for My Sunshine Away.

The references to the Challenger explosion and the Jeffrey Dahmer serial murder case help establish the time of this story for many readers in 2017.  I anticipate the Challenger explosion will do that for readers for many years.  I don’t think that’s the case for the Dahmer murder case, and may actually “date” the book, or maybe I just hope it won’t be a universally recognized event.  I guess I’m hoping that we don’t perpetuate the stories of deeply inhumane acts of serial violence but that’s probably not realistic since we’re all familiar with the existence of Jack the Ripper.

I now do see a useful role of the Jeffrey Dahmer serial murders and why Lindsay is so interested in discussing it.  This is a public case of an evil set of crimes and, importantly, it’s not about her.  The narrator is willing to discuss primarily because of his obsession with Lindsay.

A substantial theme I hadn’t fully digested is  the importance of a male adult/boy relationship in the development of a boy into a man.  The narrator has limited interaction with his father, especially after he leaves the family for another woman.  The brief time his mother’s brother stays with the family (while he is sorting out his own problems) provides the only relationship the narrator calls out as one that has an influence on the way he views things.  The narrator reveals the true audience for his narration in the last chapter.  Exploring this theme in this way certainly elevates the novel light-years above the SVU type story it uses to start the book.

The short (50 min) but amazingly effective book discussion I attended about this book enabled me to recognize this substantial them, almost buried within the description of male adolescence and impact of a sex crime.  It’s prompted me to consider finishing “The Lost Memory of Skin” by Russell Banks especially since there was a clear lack of positive adult male figure in the life of that book’s protagonist.   I’ve previously read and have moved by earlier novels by Banks but put this one down due to the topic of sex offense.   I haven’t yet obtained it again from the library and perhaps I won’t.  I continue to hope there are ways to discuss important human themes without involving human evil.  I continue to hope that our society hasn’t been overly numbed and requires vivid depictions of evil to be moved.  I continue to hope that Margaret Atwood’s speculative fiction doesn’t continue to predict so well society trends….

Dark but Engaging Debut by M.O. Walsh

My Sunshine Away by M.O. Walsh

Published 2015

Read 2/14/2017

This book is the subject of a book discussion group to which I belong.  If it wasn’t I might not have finished it but, as is the case with most books that are the subject of book groups in which  I enjoy membership, the book was worth pursuing to the end.

The book starts with the rape of a 14 year old local track star, Lindsay, an attractive, but not ravishingly beautiful, nice neighborhood girl who attracts the attention of many boys in the neighborhood and school.  This lets us know immediately that this book won’t be a breezy read.  As expected, the event profoundly impacts her, her family members, and their family relationships.  But we only experience these impacts through the eyes of the unnamed narrator, a boy neighbor who is 13 years old at the time of the event and in the full throes of a crush—on Lindsay.  Our narrator is initially a suspect but his ignorance of what “rape” means and involves is so clear that he is quickly dismissed as a suspect.  The reader’s opinion of his innocence is tested, however, as he reveals the kinds of feelings he has for Lindsay and the things he does to observe her.  The crush is better termed an obsession and his innocence is thwarted through associations with a neighbor who is the adopted son of a family who has fostered many children.  The narrator obtains, from this neighbor boy, a disturbing photo of Lindsay taken by the boy’s adopted father, and thus brings another person into the list of potential rapists. We’re given hints that that this family’s fostering involved likely horrendously damaging hurt inflicted on the children by at least the foster father, with minimally the knowledge of the foster mother.  The author also spends a number of pages discussing the Jeffry Dahlmer serial killing case that occurred during the time of the story.  Thus the book has a Law and Order SVU type plot serving as an overarching plotline for the book and ventures well into other types of horrors that humans can inflict on one another and on children.  This is the source of my discomfort with this book.  Despite being a fan of law/order procedurals, I don’t appreciate the SVU version or stories involving serial killers.

Fortunately, the book dramatically departs from Law and Order SVU-type offering on several accounts.  First, the crime remains publically unsolved, although the narrator may have discovered implicating evidence that isn’t shared, and no one gets resolution or closure as a result. This is perhaps not satisfying for the reader, but the impact of lack of resolution on the narrator both personally and as a result of its impact on those around him, including Lindsay, is more interesting.   Second, a central focus of the book is the life and development of the narrator.  We learn about the rhythms of life in the suburban Baton Rouge neighborhood pre-rape as see through the eyes of the narrator, including the games the neighborhood kids (including Lindsay) played and the lushness of the wooded area in which their neighborhood was set.  We learn about the breakup of the narrator’s parents’ marriage and the further damage inflicted on the family by the death of the narrator’s sister.  We see the narrator grow in his understanding of the impact of the rape on Lindsay through their late night phone calls and we see the evolution of the narrator’s obsession with Lindsay.

The third aspect that separates this book from a typical SVU story is the homage the author pays to his hometown of Baton Rouge.  He spends a fair number of pages on the differences between New Orleans and Baton Rouge and works to fill in the gap of most readers’ knowledge about Baton Rouge.  In particular he works to fully convince the readers that Baton Rouge should not feel guilty that it isn’t like New Orleans.

An interesting question is whether the narrator really ever understands the impact of the rape on Lindsay—both the physical rape itself and the revelation to her schoolmates that she had been raped.  Since the rape occurred during the summer and since it was so quietly investigated, the kids at school were unaware of the event until it’s revealed by the narrator in the school yard.  The revelation is not intended to be hurtful and neither Lindsay nor the school kids are supported by adults at the school in how to work through how to digest this information.  Perhaps this would be different in 2017 or at least one can hope it would be.  The narrator does get a small glimpse of the depth of despair to which Lindsay has fallen and remains several years after the event when she states she sometimes wishes she were dead and the narrator recognizes that she means it.  Of course he is not equipped to help her nor is he inclined to think he might aid her in getting some help.  Only when he is in his thirties and runs into her at a football game does he seem to begin to truly understand the long-term effect this event and corresponding exposure of it has had on Lindsay.

M.O. Walsh has told interviewers that he feels he “got lucky with this one” that his book received exposure and recognition in the face of a vast number of other books published in the same year.  Kirkus Reviews concludes its review of the book with “Celebrate, fiction lovers: The gods of Southern gothic storytelling have inducted a junior member.”

I do look forward to future offerings from the author although I also hope he doesn’t feel compelled to follow a trend I’m seeing in recent literature and which he used here—to use deeply evil acts as a device to explore human nature.


An Interesting Taste of India

The Inheritance of Loss (published 2006) By Kiran Desai

Read Dec 1, 2016

Desai’s lush writing reveals the stories of her characters and the political unrest that infiltrates them in the Darjeling district of West Bengal in 1986 in carefully designed aliquots.  Sai is the daughter of parents estranged from their families.  She is raised in a British convent until their death when she is left at the doorstep of her grandfather, a retired judge.  We meet her at age 17 as she is enjoying first love with her local math/physics tutor, Gyan, who becomes partially radicalized by the Gorka National Liberation Front.   The judge was trained in Britain and served as a travelling Chief Justice for the Indian Civil Service.  We meet him while he is leading a solitary life “with the solace of being a foreigner in his own country, for this time he would not learn the language” in a decaying mansion built by a Scotsman in the hills with a view of the Himalayas.  Prior to Sai’s arrival, his only interactions after taking residence in this house are with his native cook and his beloved Mutt.  The cook’s son, Biju, is an important character as we learn about his immigration to the US, his miserable existence in New York City as an illegal alien, and his strong connection to his father.  Rounding out the character list are the closest neighbors of the judge and Sai—a pair of Anglophile sisters and a household made up of a Swiss priest and “Uncle Potty” who is generally drunk.

Desai starts us with the intrusion of the judge’s home by young men and boys, local members of the GNLF, to steal his guns and other possessions of possible worth.  She proceeds to unwind the story of the various characters and their various relationships to this intrusion.

She exposes us to the challenges of being a foreigner—whether actual (Biju), chosen (the judge, the sisters, Father Booty and Uncle Potty), or accidental (Sai).  We are exposed to the impact of prejudice against minority members of society and lower caste members in Indian society and the extreme strategies they apply to break into a better life.  We get a taste about the complexity of India—a single country forged from nearly countless sets of cultures, religions, and ethnicities.

While not an easy book for me to initially connect with, it has turned out to be one that is hard to leave, and one that has opened a new set of things to ponder.  Can one ask for more from a book?

On the Road with Ivan Doig


Last Bus to Wisdom by Ivan DoigPublished 2015; Read Jan 5, 2017

The world lost Ivan Doig in 2015 to multiple myoloma.  Fortunately he left behind 15 novels and several non-fiction books that will continue to provide us good literature to read and ponder.   In the Last Bus to Wisdom, Doig starts this story in Two Medicine Country of the Montana Rockies, a setting for his previous work, and in fact the location is the Double W ranch owned by Wendell Williamson, nephew of Wesley Williamson who we met in Doig’s Prairie Nocturne.  The story takes us on a trip east to Manitowoc, Wisconsin and then back to the west, all via Greyhound bus or its feeder lines.

We accompany Donal Cameron on these adventures that take place in the summer of 1951.  They are initiated when Donal’s grandmother, a cook at the Double W ranch, needs an operation for “female trouble”. (He’s been living with her since his parents died in a car accident. ) Gram sends him to her sister, Aunt Kate, who lives in Manitowac, WI with her husband Herman.  We enjoy Donal’s adventures on the Greyhound bus and his willingness and ability to spontaneously manufacture stories about himself, his family, and his travel plans.  His cross-country travel to Wisconsin takes about the first third of the book.

Once arrived at the last station of his trip, we meet Aunt Kate, who turns out not to be who Donal assumes she is (Kate Smith) and eventually turns out not to be who we, and perhaps Manitowac, assume she is.  His stay with Aunt Kate and “Herman the German” is an interesting strain for Aunt Kate and Donal while  Donal and Herman the German strike up a nice companionship. Eventually  Aunt Kate decides she can’t handle Donal anymore and she sends him back to Montana.  What she didn’t anticipate was that Herman would go with him, showing up in the seat next to Donal shortly before departure.

For the last third of the book we learn more about Herman and Kate as we follow their travels, but we mostly enjoy watching the relationship between Donal and Herman grow and the ways they manage through a number of interesting obstacles.  They’ve decided there isn’t a real need to take a straight line trip back to Two Medicine Country of Montana so they take a meandering course across the west.   Herman has been a major fan of Karl May, a German author specializing in western novels.  He has an interesting viewpoint of the American West and a desire t to see “the Karl May territory of Indian knights and pistoleer cowboys”.   Donal decides Herman must experience Crow Fair, here a fictionalized version of a real annual event and similar to an event Doig attended with his parents in the 1950’s.

Sprinkled throughout the book are the contributions Donal is getting in his autograph book from the various characters he meets during his travels.  Along with the signature, most contributors offer a rhyme or other catchy phrase that may include useful advice which sometimes comes via the interesting vernacular of the writer.  Donal even catches an entry from  Jack Kerouac, the encounter fictionalized of course, but with some of Kerouac’s actual, acknowledged, words.  Doig also uses a quote from Keroac to open the book.

Doig eventually ties together some plot lines and finds a way to get his pair of characters out of the very hot water they find themselves as a series of mishaps toss them into stormy seas of the Great Plains.  Donal must make a very significant decision at the end and tells us “I heard my decision the same instant the two of them did.”

Doig took the initial plot line from his own history—-he was sent to live with an aunt when his ranch-hand father was recovering from surgery and his ranch-cook

grandmother was going to the hospital to address “female problems”.  But he indicates that his aunt and uncle were nothing like the characters he invents for us and Doig’s bus ride was completely unmemorable.  He demonstrates that while his stories may be set in the west, he’s not a “western writer”.  He gives us unforgettable characters and stories of how they deal with trying times and issues and does it with language we wish he could continue writing.

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Pursuing a Dream Against Many Odds

Prairie Nocturne  By Ivan Diog; Published 2003;Read Dec 27, 2016

This book comes to us from Ivan Doig who was awarded the Wallace Stegner Award in 2007 by the Center for the American West among other accolades.  This story is set in Montana and New York during the Harlem Renaissance and tells the interlocking story of its three main characters:  Wesley Williamson, powerful business leader of a cattle-empire family, Susan Duff, former singer and now voice instructor, and Monty, Wes’s black chauffer with a remarkable voice Wes employs Susan to develop.  As Doig unfolds the story we gain insight into the past of the characters—Wes a successful military leader in the Great War, Susan’s loss of a brother in that war while under Wes’s command, the relationship between Wes and Susan that impacts Wes’ political career, Monty’s boyhood in the Montana fort commanded by John J. Pershing, and the connections they have from childhood.  Wes’s Catholic faith, Monty’s color, Susan’s instruction of Monty, and Monty’s possible success all become targets for the local KKK both in Montana and New York.   Doig’s beautiful writing carries us through this saga of struggle, loyalty, grip of the past, and the pain and rewards of career and passion.   The ending surprised me and, at first disappointed me, seeming in some ways “too nice and tidy”.  However what happens for each of these characters next will remain challenging and some will carry forward a deeper sense of loss than they possessed at the beginning of the story.

Guskin Give Us a Mystery and Makes Us Think

The Forgetting Time by Sharon Guskin

Published 2016

Read Jan 7, 2016

Sharon Guskin became acquainted with the work of Dr. Ian Stevenson when she was passed a copy of Old Souls by Tom Shroder, a Washinton Post reporter.  Stevenson was a professor at the University of Virginia Medical School for over fifty years. He research considered reincarnation, in particular the possibility that emotions, memories, and physical injuries in the form of birth marks can be transferred from one life to another. Guskin’s first novel uses this concept to explore a number of themes including the powerful bond between mother and child, the devotion of a mother to her child, the impact of the death of a loved one, the sacrifices one is willing to make to pursue research not embraced by colleagues, and the devastation of the loss of brain function from dementia type diseases.

We meet Janie, a single mom, and Noah, her lively four year-old and the product of a one night stand.  Noah has always been a handful for Janie, but has becoming increasingly difficult to handle, refusing to bathe, experiencing terrifying dreams, and asking when he can go home to his mother.  The situation reaches crisis mode when his daycare essentially kicks him out after he tells other student about playing with a gun–a .54-caliper Renegade rifle.  Janie tries a number of doctors and psychiatrists and nearly relents to meditating him to treat a diagnosis of schizophrenia but instead turns to a psychiatrist she finds on the internet that has interests in children who recall details from previous lives.

We meet Dr. Jerome Anderson, a professor of psychiatry, who has chosen a career limiting research pursuit of reincarnation as demonstrated by children who recall past lives.  He’s still in deep mourning for his wife who he lost to cancer the previous year when he gets his own tragic diagnosis–primary progressive aphasia–which will slowly rob him of his language cognition leaving him unable to communicate verbally or through writing.  Funding for his research institute has been cut recently and he’s closed his office. He’s trying to get a book published on his research that is intended for the general public but his editor would like to see another American case.

Thus the needs of Janie and Anderson bring them together to consider and solve the mystery of Noah.

The story is told through three voices—Janie’s, Anderson’s, and Denise, a mother whose son Tommy went missing a number of years ago.  In between the chapter Guskin provides excerpts from Jim B. Tucker’s book  Life Before Life.   In the acknowledgements we learn that Tucker is a real person and the book is a real book.  He was an associate of Dr. Ian Stevenson at is still at the University of Virginia Medical School.

On the surface this is a psychological mystery.  It does keep you turning the pages.  In addition, however, as you read you begin to pause and consider a not only the themes noted above but as well as the concepts of mortality, how we spend our lives, and what happens before and after we are alive.

Kent Haruf—Introduction

I’ve seen Plainsong in countless book stores since it was published in 1999 and came close to being enticed to read it based on the title, book cover, and cover blurbs.  I only recently read it after a comment from a respected colleague and friend praised Benedition, noting it as the third in a trilogy starting with Plainsong.  Based on this recommendation I undertook reading the trilogy and, being so moved by the author’s style and content, promptly moved on to the first and second books he wrote.  While looking for more, I encountered the sad news that Kent Haruf died at age 71 in 2014 and that a final novel, Our Souls at Night, was written while he was dying, and published in 2015.

I offer four articles on this body of work, all written after reading his entire fiction repertoire in the following order:

Book Published Reading Completed
Plainsong 1999 Sept 5, 2016
Eventide 2004 Sept 10, 2016
Benediction 2013 Sept 14, 2016
Where You Once Belonged 1990 Sept 15, 2016
The Tie That Binds 1984 Sept 27, 2016
Our Souls at Night 2015 Oct 5, 2016


Observations on Kent Haruf’s Trilogy (?)

Plainsong,  published 1999; Eventide, published 2004; Benediction, published 2013 by Kent Haruf

Kent Haruf had published novels twice before (The Tie That Binds in 1984 and Where You Once Belonged in 1990).  He even won the Whiting Award in 1986 for The Tie That Binds.  (1)  But it was Plainsong, published in 1999 when he was 56, that was his “break out” work, reaching best seller status, widespread acclaim from reviewers and readers, and a National Book Award nomination.  The successes of this book enabled him to write full time.   To do so, he and his second wife, Cathy, moved to a Colorado community about 60 miles from where they met in high school.  She became a hospice volunteer during this period.   Eventide eventually followed in 2004 and finally Benediction in 2013.

All five of Haruf’s books are set in the fictional town of Holt, Colorado, a few hours’ drive from Denver.  Apparently others as well as I see his descriptions of the landscape, the town, and the details of the toil of farming and ranching as almost as an additional character to the novels.  This aspect of the novels, as well as his strong storytelling and sparse yet sufficient character development, is a strong draw for us to seek out his other writings.

Each of these books tells the intertwining stories of a set of characters.   However, the set of characters changes in each book although the McPheron brothers are either central characters (Plainsong and Eventide) or are mentioned (Benediction).

Plainsong has several sets of characters:  Tom Guthrie, a principled high school teacher whose wife withdraws from the family; his sons Ike and Bobby; Victoria Roubideaux, a pregnant high school girl thrown out of her house by her mother; Harold and Raymond McPherons, bachelor brother famers who take in Victoria at the urging of Maggie Smith, a high school teacher who eventually becomes romantically involved with Tom Guthrie.

Eventide feels somewhat like a sequel to Plainsong in that we do follow the story of the McPheron brothers and Victoria as they experience the pain and joy of a young person leaving for the next phase of their life.  The other character sets are new:  a social worker and the dysfunctional family she’s monitoring; a lonely young boy who takes care of his grandfather and provides some support to a neighbor, a young mother who has been abandoned by her husband. Continue reading “Observations on Kent Haruf’s Trilogy (?)”

A Difficult Story

Where You Once Belonged by Kent Haruf

Published 1990

In his second novel, Where You Once Belonged, Kent Haruf continues an approach from his first novel, A Tie That Binds.  Specifically we start our reading with a third party narrator who turns the story over to a first-person narrator, Pat Arbuckle,  who tells us the story of the focal character, in this case, Jack Burdett, the best football player Holt, Colorado had ever seen,  and how the narrator’s story intertwines with that of the focal character with increasing intimacy.

In The Tie That Binds, a violent accident is the primary fault line that amplifies a difficult family situation and the abusive nature of a primary character and defines the life course for the focal character.  In Where You Once Belonged, the arrogance, thoughtlessness, and greed of a primary character, rather than a terrible, perhaps preventable, but nonetheless terrific accident, results in tragic outcomes for multiple characters that cared for and or deeply trusted him.   Thus this book takes us towards some themes that Haruf starts in The Tie That Binds and extends in the Plainsong “Triology”—-1) human beings are capable of causing great harm to others and that capability is regularly exhibited, not one that only occasionally arises; 2) human beings can persevere and even thrive in the face of human caused obstacles and can do so with grace, courage, and humility.

I synthesize from several reviews that this book was written before Haruf took up the “write blind” approach used in Plainsong and later books—-typing the first draft on a manual typewriter while wearing a wool cap over his eyes.  Unlike books written blind, Haruf does use standard punctuation in this book, but the engaging sentences were already apparent and thus not fully relliant on punctuation style.

“It [Wanda Jo’s reaction to hearing her long-time boyfriend, Jack Burdett, had married someone else] began immediately.  For the rest of that morning she sat in the telephone office rest room, staring at the tiled floor, wiping her nose on cheap toilet paper, crying quietly, her recently curled strawberry blonde hair fallen forward about her abashed and stricken face and her slim white neck bowed and exposed as if she were waiting for some final blow of some Holt County inquisitor’s ax.  All of that-that dreadful individual remorse and despair and submission-while the fan overhead went on making its maddening little noise and while the other women out in the front office continued to talk about her and to send a representative from among themselves every fifteen minutes or so to check on her.  She stayed in the rest room all that morning.  Then at noon one of the women drove her home.”

The ending is difficult–no happy endings here.   Jack Burdett created a wound in the town that hadn’t healed completely, only scabbed over.  He returned to pick that scab off and ended up ripping it off with ferocity.  Despite this, life will continue for the characters.  All will move forward somehow and at least some with remnants of positive thoughts.  The narrator, Pat Arbuckle, leaves us with  “I want to believe she is all right too…..I want to believe that much and I hope for more.”

Ties That Can’t be Broken

The Tie That Binds by Kent Haruf

Published 1984

This is Kent Haruf’s first novel and my favorite.  Edith Goodnough’s story is told by her neighbor, Sanders Roscoe.   Edith’s parents arrive in the High Plains of Holt, Colorado in 1896 from Iowa to homestead.  Edith’s mother is worn out and dies in 1914.  Edith assumes her mother’s tasks of cooking, cleaning, gardening, canning, milking, etc and helps her brother, Lyman, and her father with the farming tasks.  Roy Goodnough, Edith’s father, survives a violent accident shortly thereafter which mangles his hands and lives “enraged forever” until 1952.  Lyman escapes the farm in 1941 when he leaves to join the army (which doesn’t take him) and stays away, living in many places throughout the USA, until 1961.  He annually sends a postcard from the town he’s currently staying and a bundle of twenty dollar bills.  Edith treasures and saves these and awaits his return.  Since the Roscoes and the Goodnoughs are neighbors we learn how their lives intertwine and as well the heartbreaks each Sanders, his parents, and grandmother endure.

This is a remarkable novel for the range of human circumstances it describes and the windswept setting for these trials and joys with straight ahead, unflinchingly beautiful language.  An example:

Page 58:  “But in the summer of 1922 she must have been just about perfect. She was slim and quick, with brown eyes and  brown curly hair.  She was woman breasted.  She had strong hands.  She was uncomplaining with plenty to complain about.  She was….but hell, I don’t know how to describe women.  Only look here, this is more what I mean:  she was quiet and focused and there for you in a way that didn’t make you feel awkward or clumsy even when you were worse than both of those things, a failing on your feet as a newborn colt, as drunk as a just-dropped calf.  She made you want to hold her there in the front seat of that car on that country road, hold her, put your arm around her, kiss her, breather her hair, talk to her, before, all  those things you hadn’t told anyone else before, all those things beyond the  jokes and the surface facts of yourself, things you yourself didn’t know for sure you felt or thought until you heard yourself telling them to her in the dark in the stopped car with your arm around her, because somehow it would be all right if she heard them and they would be true then.  Edith Goonough must have been something that summer.”

Haruf’s characters are full-blown.  Roy Goodnough, the father, is the character closest to single dimensional but even he had clear dreams and goals that he struggles mightily to achieve.  His narrowing to an enraged man is substantially caused by the terrible accident, especially since he knows he holds some fraction of responsibility for it.  Sanders Roscoe, Edith and Lyman Goodnough all have character attributes that are noble and some that are frustrating and even self-destructive at times.  Haruf gives us some insight to the origins of all types for these characters and we are engaged to all their stories because of this.

This is a book that doesn’t let you go easily.  We are saddened at times that “the family farm” is disappearing.  Automation and mechanization have minimized the need for so much physical labor to eke out a living from the land.   I don’t think we would really wish for children to be tied to the farm as the characters in this book are.  Edith’s tie was most heartbreaking but Sandy was tied as well and was lost for a while as a result.

We live now in a time in which children often not only leave home and the community, but the state, the region, and even the country to live their lives.  We count ourselves lucky, appropriately, that we can and do raise our kids to be independent adults.   It’s sad when they actually demonstrate we’re successful and they can leave and be whole and productive members of society on their own.  We mourn that “the tie that binds” seems gone at times.  But we’re more glad than sad because the tie that binds is still present in many cases but takes forms that evolve and morph over time—internet, text messages, social media, family reunions, weddings and funerals, and as well coming home when family members need us while we figure out a way for them to be adequately supported by ourselves or others.   There are more options now and we lose fewer Edith Goodnoughs to decades of loneliness—or at least I hope we do.