I saw this book in the Goodreads giveaway list and was intrigued by the description. I requested a review copy from the author, and she sent it right away. The full novel far surpassed my hopes.
She included so many of the struggles that can face a family affected by a loved one’s chronic illness. At the beginning of the story we see a family that has learned to cope with Allison’s multiple sclerosis (MS )over the years in their own individual ways. Things are going as well as could be expected.
We can see the cracks start to appear when Allison doesn’t recover from a setback as quickly as she has previously. Suddenly she’s no longer able to fool her ex-husband, her doctor, and her daughters–one of whom has been estranged for several years. Of course, this change comes at the worst possible time. Her ex is in a new relationship that is quickly becoming serious and making him rethink his role in Allison’s life. Her younger daughter Hailey is in high school about to start looking at colleges and think of moving away for the first time. Her older daughter Melanie lived feeling like no one cared about her and gave her what she needed. She was an alcoholic in high school, and left as soon as she graduated. She looked like a healthy businesswoman living a life anyone would want, but her recovery didn’t help her find a life that made her happy.
Allison defined herself by her work, so her family suffered. So did her body. She had to return to school for social work when she could no longer function effectively as a physical therapist. Her career was so important that she kept going well past the point that it was healthy for her. I was frustrated at her care and compassion for her clients, especially Daria, because I wasn’t sure it came from a healthy place in her heart. It seemed she had a more effective parenting relationship with her clients than her own daughters. I wasn’t sure how much of the commitment to her career stemmed from her refusal to admit that the MS was getting worse. As someone who wanted to spend her career doing work like Allison’s, I saw that the relationship with Daria was too intense for the boundaries she needed to function with her limitations.
It was a conflict I understood well. Letting go of work was the last thing I wanted to happen. Everyone with a chronic illness or disability who has had to make that choice feels Allison’s pain at some point in the process. I’m glad she found a way to balance her boundaries to have a full life, care for her daughters with her whole heart and to let a new man into her world.
Chronic illness and disability changed her life in ways she couldn’t fix alone. She had to work with them and allow people to help her. If she hadn’t gotten sick, I wonder what would have happened to her marriage. I suspect her commitment to her career might have eventually forced a crisis point in her relationships.
I’m also glad we were left with a hopeful ending instead of following Allison to her eventual final end. I think that is a good message to leave those of us struggling with illness and disability.