Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Review: be the noodle

Author: Lois Kelly

Format: trade paper back, 124 pages
Subject: death, dying, care-giving
Genre: non-fiction essays
Source: review copy from the author
Challenge: ARCs completed

No that's not a typo....lois kelly ignores the energy needed to shift into uppercase fonts.  She instead focuses on the important in this short, pithy, well-written and extremely readable little book.  It will be cherished by anyone faced with caring for a loved one through the final days of a lingering death.

Lois, oldest child of Bette, takes over the week day watch at her mother's side at her beach house on Cape Cod, as Bette slowly faces death from lung and brain cancer. I found it especially touching that Bette chose to have surgery to remove an especially large brain tumor (there were several) but eschewed chemo because doctors said that removing the tumor would at least give her back the ability to read.  And if she had to wait for death, she could at least read while she was waiting!  Trying to respect her mother's wishes, while dealing with well meaning, and well wishing neighbors, friends, and relatives, provides the basis for the advice given here.
Written as 50 short lessons to be learned, the introduction describes this as
"...a caregiver's adventure guide based on my wild, wondrous and life changing journey helping my mother die at home...this book will help you navigate the adventure and become a compassionate, crazy-good caregiver, one of the most courageous jobs you never wanted."
The title refers to those styrofoam tubes swimmers use to support themselves in the helps them stay afloat while they still retain use of their arms and legs.  Her mother loved to swim, and always disdained using noodles. In the end, both mother and daughter recognized the beauty in letting Lois 'be the noodle.'

Of the 50 "lessons" here are a few of my favorites:
  • Caregiver lesson #4: tell all those generous friends and neighbors what kind of food you would appreciate. otherwise, beware the banana bread bombardment.
  • Caregiver lesson #19: celebrate peepers and other rituals (if you don't live near a body of water, you probably won't get it, but it was special to me.)
  • Lesson #14: escape into old photographs.
It's not depressing at all. It is cheerful, uplifting and inspiring. There are helpful hints from the time the diagnosis is made (and accepted) to dealing with after the funeral issues. Highly recommended for anyone in a care giving situation, or as a gift for someone you know who is a loving caregiver or will someday become one.


  1. I must admit I was a little put off by the title, but it actually sounds like a very good book.

  2. This is not up my alley at the moment (I just had an extended family member die of cancer, so it's too soon) but I think I'm going to write down the title and save it for a rainy day. Thanks, Tina.

  3. Thanks for the kind words about the "Be the Noodle." Here's a little video with my favorite lessons from the book.



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