cover image Be With: Letters to a Caregiver

Be With: Letters to a Caregiver

Mike Barnes. Biblioasis (Consortium, dist.), $13.95 trade paper (156p) ISBN 978-1-77196-243-8

Barnes shares a tender exaltation of caregivers and the act of caring for a loved one suffering a debilitating chronic condition. The author is caring for his mother, Mary, who’s battling Alzheimer’s. In four short essays, Barnes (The Adjustment League) details the emotional and physical toll of years spent in hospitals and long-term care facilities; of micro-comas that come out of the blue when sleeplessness and stress are finally overwhelmed by bodily needs; of personal service workers his mother attacked in fits of rage and confusion; of dealing with language and basic communication skills lost alongside her memories; and of being stretched about as thin as one can tolerate without coming apart entirely. Barnes writes sympathetically about “caregiver time”—a form of suspended animation throughout the process of caring for another—and what it means to lose vast swaths of it, and to have one’s life placed in it. Barnes writes with a clear and melodic tenor; there’s poetry in his myriad introspections, and a willingness to put everything on the table, good, bad, and heart-wrenching. This is a powerful book for those who have experienced similar trials, regardless of length of time or severity. (Sept.)