The Long Hello: Memory, My Mother, and Me by Cathie Borrie

The Long Hello by Cathie BorrieBook Review
Title: The Long Hello: Memory, My Mother, and Me
Author:  Cathie Borrie
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Canada
Released: January 6, 2015
Pages: 225
ISBN: 978-1-4767-9251-4
Book Reviewer: Christine Bode
Stars:  2.5

 

My younger sister died five months ago today from ovarian cancer at the age of 48 so it’s quite possible that I’m just not in the right frame of mood to be reading and reviewing a memoir about a woman who spent seven years caring for her mother before she died from Alzheimer’s in her late 80’s. Nonetheless, the good people at Simon & Schuster enticed me into reading The Long Hello: Memory, My Mother, and Me by Cathie Borrie by using these paragraphs to describe it:

“It explores the emotional rewards and challenges that Cathie Borrie experienced in caring for her mother, who was living with Alzheimer’s disease, for seven years. Between the two, a wondrously poetic dialogue develops, which Ms. Borrie further illuminates with childhood memories of her family, and her struggle to maintain a life outside her caregiving responsibilities. The Long Hello demonstrates how caregiving creates an opportunity to experience the change in a relationship that illness necessitates, one in which joy, meaning, and profound intimacy can flourish. 

Written in spare, beautiful prose, largely in the form of a dialogue, The Long Hello exquisitely captures the intricacies and nuances of a daughter’s relationship with her mother.”

After reading the book, this is not my experience of it. My 62-year-old cousin, who cared for her own mother while she was dying from Alzheimer’s three years ago, read it before me and she found Borrie’s to be very unlike her own experience and not as moving or profound as she thought it might be based on what we were led to believe by the above description either.

Another thing that caught my attention and makes me wonder is why Simon & Schuster chose to use the quote “Joy!” from Maya Angelou on the cover of the book because it hasn’t been published yet and Angelou died on May 28, 2014. If she did indeed have a chance to read this book before she passed away, I would have thought she’d have more to say about it than one word, but this to me is suspicious and the word is in my humble opinion, inappropriate.

Born in Vancouver, Borrie started her career as a nurse before attaining a Masters of Public Health from Johns Hopkins University and later graduated from Law School at the University of Saskatchewan. In 2005, she earned a Certificate in Creative Writing from The Writer’s Studio at Simon Fraser University. She is also a ballroom dancer and has performed in the theatre and as a clown. She has some impressive credentials but I don’t feel that this book “is immensely lyrical and moving” nor a “powerful display of Cathie Borrie’s talent as a writer.”

On a positive note, it’s a very quick read. I read it in two sittings. It’s written somewhat like a journal, almost in point form with the Canadian author flipping back and forth between her past and the present as she’s caring for her mother who is slowly slipping further and further away into the tunnel of dementia. However, I find that there is very little joy in this book aside from the often amusing things that Cathie’s mother Jo says as she’s losing her mind. Borrie recorded conversations with her mother so that she could write this memoir but her own emotions come across as flat and depressed, which I can totally understand that she would be, while going through such a difficult experience. When she describes the facts of her life, they’re just that, facts. The way she’s written them down it appears that she’s had very little joy in her life and maybe that’s the truth of it, I don’t know. She was, at the time of writing The Long Hello a 51-year-old single woman who couldn’t get her own needs met, but was compelled to do everything she could to help her mother before she died and that I can definitely relate to. But it makes for a sad, downer of a read and I was somewhat offended when she wrote this passage:

“My surgeon’s in his forties, easy on the eyes.

“How are things?”

“I’ve been praying for ovarian cancer.”

“You what?”

“So I’d be dead before you have to replace my hip. I figured it was a fast cancer so I’d be dead before my name got to the top of your waiting list.”

The things people say and write when they’re depressed…I’m telling you. We shouldn’t be allowed near a writing implement. I know this from experience.

Cathie Borrie’s mother left her alcoholic father when she was a young girl and soon after her 13-year-old brother Hugh was killed in a random fight with a neighbourhood bully. His, like so many others, was an utterly tragic and meaningless death. Years later, her mother remarried an older man who was always away on business but when he was home he didn’t want his wife’s child to be there because he’d already raised one family and didn’t want to deal with Cathie so she was sent away to boarding school, a fact that upsets her for the rest of her life.

Three quarters of the way through The Long Hello, Cathie’s mother asks, “What happened to the joy of life, Cath?” She replies, “I don’t know, what do you think?” “I think you thought it was going to be better than it was.” That is certainly a statement I can relate to at this point in my life and I also identified to Cathie saying, “I wish I was dead too. And when I’m old there isn’t going to be anyone left to take care of me…No one left who knows my story.” “Goddamn it, Hughie – why did I have to be the one left behind?” I’m sure that’s how many people feel when they lose a beloved sibling because I have and that’s exactly how I feel. And I didn’t need to read this book to be reminded of it.

Puzzle Project Has Healing Touch: Canadian Author Word Searched Her Way through Rheumatoid Arthritis

PRESS RELEASE

CONTACT: Cindy O’Neil
Phone: 705-207-4123
mail@cindyoneil.com
www.cindyoneil.com
www.passionatepuzzler.com


Puzzle Project Has Healing Touch: Canadian Author Word Searched Her Way through Rheumatoid Arthritis

Art, colour and puzzles increasingly used as forms of or part of healing & therapy

Kingston, Ontario — September 5, 2012 — People who are interested in alternative forms of healing and therapy can discover how Canadian author Cindy O’Neil used art, colour and word search puzzles to buoy her health and spirit during a long-term and life altering change in her health, and at the same time, potentially help themselves.

Healing Circle Puzzles is a unique book that Cindy began creating in the winter of 2001 after having just been released from a month long stay in hospital and diagnosed with severe, systemic Rheumatoid Arthritis. Confined to her home by disability, healing became Cindy’s full time job.

“Art is a powerful healing tool,” says Dr. Sean Ceaser, ND out of Victoria.  He “knows that colour, form and line create a powerful impression on the senses that can have a lasting effect on how we feel far beyond the time we are involved with the art.  It transcends our understanding and takes us into the world of magic and larger-than-life experiences that stimulate the senses, heal the body and releases a cascade of neurotransmitters and endorphins that can calm any uneasy mind if the images are just right.”

O’Neil didn’t want to create just any puzzles, and decided to integrate the concept of healing, circles, the world, art and connection into her word searches, as well as the fact that they would only be in circles.  In the process her pain and fear evaporated and she began to heal.

Numerous scientific studies have documented the fact that brain exercises that include the solving of puzzles have been known to slow down the effects of Alzheimer’s and aid in recovery after surgery.  Much has also been written about the healing powers of art therapy and colour therapy or Chromotherapy.  It is a fact that art, like laughter, promotes well being.

Healing Circle Puzzles combines original work of Canadian artists and photographers with unusually crafted word search puzzles.  Throughout the book, full colour images by very talented, undiscovered artists accompany each word search.  Word search themes encompass those things that helped Cindy in her healing: positive thoughts, actions, music, books, therapies, healthy foods and more.  The contents of the book focus on connectedness, harmony, healing and unity.

From now until September 20, 2012, Cindy O’Neil is offering a 20% discount with pre-release purchase of Healing Circle Puzzles athttps://www.passionatepuzzler.com.  For more information, contact Cindy at705-207-4123 or mail@cindyoneil.com. Learn more about Cindy O’Neil athttp://www.cindyoneil.com and at https://www.facebook.com/AuthorandSongwriterCindyONeil.

###

Conceit by Mary Novik

Book Review
Title: Conceit
Author: Mary Novik
Publisher: Doubleday Canada
Released: 2007
Pages: 416
ISBN-10: 038566205X
ISBN-13: 978-0385662055
Stars: 4.0

Vancouver author Mary Novik’s debut novel, Conceit (awarded a Globe and Mail Best Book stamp of approval), is an ambitious, elegant and visceral story of the life and loves of Margaret More Donne, a.k.a. Pegge, daughter of the famous 17th century poet, John Donne (whom I first heard about in Van Morrison’s song, “Rave On, John Donne”). It is also the tale of the great love affair between Ann More – a descendant of Sir Thomas More – and John Donne, who after her death, became an Anglican priest and the Dean of St. Paul’s Church in London.

I read a few chapters before I became thoroughly engaged by Novik’s own poetic prose (I must confess that I’m not enamoured by the sport of angling nor of fish in general, although Pegge’s recipe for cooked pike made me pause) as well as by the thoughts and feelings of the rebellious young Pegge. Set largely in the London of Elizabeth I, Novik weaves her descriptive, subtly erotic tale using the first person voices of several characters including Pegge, her dead mother Ann and John Donne himself.

It wasn’t until part three, “Death’s Duel”, that I was truly hooked on the story and wanted to know if Pegge ever got to consummate her love for Izaak Walton, although (up until that point) I couldn’t understand why she was so attracted to him. Because Novik switches the voices of the main characters and time periods without warning from chapter to chapter, you can get confused about where you’re at if you put the book down for too long. However, this impressive piece of literature is well worth the effort and by the end we discover that the Pegge we thought we knew; who was quite possibly going mad as a result of her obsession with her late father; was someone who was, in fact, incredibly clever and full of guile.

One of my favourite passages came in the very last paragraph of the book:

Come, William, I see Venus rising like a pink nipple on the plump horizon. Shall we make that clock of yours run faster? Let us bed down together in this new dawn and weave a silken tent of arms. Such feats are not reserved for extraordinary lovers, and my love for you has grown over the years to marvellous proportions. Let us die together in the act of love, so death cannot divorce us. When our grave is broken open, our souls shall take flight together, assuming limbs of flesh, and lips, ears, loins, and brows. But first let us speed darkening time and savour this long night of love.

Did you sigh when you read that? I did, and if you love historical fiction (I’m envisioning the movie version!), this captivating book will make you sigh deeply too. Just in case you have forgotten, Mary Novik’s Conceit will remind you of the soul-expanding sensation that is true passion.

Discover Mary’s inspiration for Conceit here: