The sandwich generation is the generation of middle-aged individuals who are pressured to support both aging parents and growing children. As part of this generation myself, I know how difficult it is to take care of parents and children (or grandchildren) and to find time to take care of yourself. I have recently read two fiction books that discuss this issue.
The title of this new book by Ann Garvin, is the first indication that this is going to be a book worth reading and I can tell you right now that is absolutely correct! I loved this book. The characters are so wonderful and real - they make mistakes and agonize over their decisions and power on with their lives. Because you get so involved with the characters, this is a difficult book to put down once you've started it because you want to see what happens with everyone and if their issues will be resolved.
Tig Monahan's life is a mess. She is taking care of her Mom who has Alzheimers and has just moved into a nursing home, her boyfriend has just broken up with her and she has lost her job as a psychologist after telling a patient what she really thinks of him. To top it off, her sister who she hasn't heard from in two years and who has been no help with their mother, shows up at her door and is 9 months pregnant. Tig tries to do what she has always done - she takes care of everyone else and forgets to take care of herself. Tig tries to learn to take care of her own needs and even though its a real struggle at time, there are also times that the reader can laugh out loud.
I especially enjoyed this novel because I identify with it - I am part of the generation that is caught between taking care of aging parents, family members and children and who often forget that they need taken care of too. Tig is a fantastic real character and someone who I won't soon forget.
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The baby boomers in America today are faced with the same dilemma as the characters in this book - how do they juggle taking care of their aging parents and their families and children at the same time and not go totally crazy themselves. Adding to the problem in this novel is that these parents have always treated their children terribly but the adult children still feel guilt over how to care for their parents.
Robert and Aida have three children - Jules, their oldest daughter who feels the most responsible for her parents; Andrew, the only son who hasn't visited in over five year and Joanne, the spoiled youngest daughter. Aida is probably one of the most narcissistic characters that I've read in a long time and if the reader thinks this is just a trait that develops as she grows older, there are lots of flashbacks to earlier times that show that she has always been this way. Robert is weak and didn't do much to take care of his family except provide his income. Their bills are mounting in their retirement home and they expect Jules to bail them out. Problem is that Jules has a husband and daughter at home and is maxing out their future to take care of her parents.
This is an extremely well written thought provoking book. I enjoyed the way the author opened up the characters little by little throughout the story. There were several characters that I didn't like at all but they were an integral part of the story that needed to be told. Overall, it left a great question that the reader needs to answer for themselves - it is more important to take care of our aging parents or the family that we create when we start our own lives?
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