A Bittersweet Season is a rather messily organized book, with frequent repeats, and about a depressing topic: how to take care of aging relatives. Moreover, it’s articulated around the author’s personal experience, which is often a recipe for disaster. And yet, it works. The author’s travails as she struggles to find appropriate care for her mom, a once fiercely independent woman laid low by age and infirmity, are touching even as (perhaps because) she explains how she went wrong and would choose other strategies today. Her resentment of the division of labor with her brother makes perfect sense even if we want to tell her to take that vacation, right away, and don’t even call in for the week. And her mom’s sarcastic sense of humor shines through despite her increasing despair and frustrations.
Along the way are lots of practical considerations for how to plan for our future and the present and future of our elders. The most crucial may be to face reality and not let emotions overwhelm logic. While a nursing home may not be our dream housing option, it may be the right place to be. The only area of disagreement I may have with the book is the idea that it’s somehow disgraceful to ask seniors to contribute their resources before they can receive government help. But overall I found the book both useful and human.