by Hollis Giammatteo
When Hollis Giammatteo sought a job working with the elderly, she did so with the intention of finding models of healthy aging. And she failed.
In The Shelf Life of Ashes, Giammatteo chronicles her experiences with her wards, as well as the trip she embarks upon when her mother, who is convinced she is dying, entreats her to come “home.” Trips back, traumas triggered, identity in crisis, equanimity gained―this quasi-comic, concentrated journey engages the reader in the process of naming and facing the tasks involved in growing old, while asking a simple but weighted question: Can aging be done well?
When I first learned about this book through the blog tour that I'm on (Truth of Dare Blog Tour from Book Sparks), I was a bit wary of this one. It's not the idea of death that got me - it was the idea of other people's death (i.e. people I know) that got me thinking.
This book is a true account of Hollis's experiences with the elderly and her own family. She takes us to a place where I have always been terrified of visiting - that of the death of a parent. There is so much more to this story, however. The experiences that Hollis has gone through, both lonely and beautiful, kept me going. There are so many ways we can grow older, and reading Hollis's work encourage me to continue with some tenderness and laughter.
Anyone who reads this story can expect to read about (and want) a life that is bigger - maybe even better - than what we currently have. It was definitely an eye-opening journey.