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Making an Exit by Elinor Fuchs (51,000 words, 1 illustration)
Just before World War II, “Lil” escaped a miserable marriage in Cleveland, Ohio, took back her maiden name, left her young daughter Elinor behind, and launched what became an international business career. Rejoining Lil at the age of ten, Elinor watched as her mother gave fabulous parties, sold automotive parts in South America, Asia, and the Middle East, and “in any given room, took up all the air there was.” With her stunning looks, high intelligence, and drive for adventure, Lil was more a figure to admire than a mother to love.
Making an Exit is the account of what happened after Lil was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. As the disease progresses, Elinor becomes her mother’s mother, caring for her with growing compassion. Lil changes, too: filled with new warmth, the word “love” now regularly crosses her lips. And despite the disintegration of Lil’s mind and language, mother and daughter make a surprising new start.
“In this moving memoir of mother-daughter love only strengthened by Alzheimer’s, Elinor Fuchs brilliantly pulls off the nearly impossible feat of reproducing on the page the living voice of dementia, a masterly achievement.” — Alix Kates Shulman, author of A Good Enough Daughter and To Love What Is
“How many dementia caregivers find themselves laughing and crying at the same time? This is the book for us. Making an Exit is Elinor Fuchs's sparkling gift basket to those who help, or may someday help, someone with severe cognitive impairment. A theater professor and drama critic, Fuchs describes the strange, heroic ten-year ‘Emergency’ of caring for her single mom, Lil-- a glamorously eccentric businesswoman--with irrepressible vitality, generosity, forthrightness, and love.” — Margaret Morganroth Gullette, author of Aged by Culture and Agewise
“Unflinchingly honest, open-hearted, and funny, this is a work of passionate intelligence and deep humanity.” — Joyce Antler, author of The Journey Home: How Jewish Women Shaped Modern America and You Never Call, You Never Write! A History of the Jewish Mother
“Fuchs celebrates the richness and folly of life and language in this loving and often funny tribute to her nonconformist mother... Never mawkish, this is a tender tale of an idiosyncratic, independent woman and her daughter’s reluctant love.” — Publishers Weekly
“This book was a joy to read. It felt as if I were reading a well-written script, part drama and part comedy” — Daniel Kuhn, American Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease and Other Dementias
“Making an Exit makes you cry and laugh and think. It takes you into deep disturbances of memory and history and brings you back with compassion and love. No other memoir of dementia combines the trials of caregiving and the painful, yet necessary growth of self knowledge.” — Thomas R. Cole, author of The Journey of Life: A Cultural History of Aging in America
“In Making an Exit Elinor Fuchs leaves readers with an understanding of growing older in America today, where filial generosity, enduring resilience, heartfelt ambivalence, and undiminished humor shine through the most vulnerable experiences of decline.” — Stephen Katz, author of Cultural Aging: Life Course, Lifestyle, and Senior Worlds and Professor of Sociology, Trent University, Canada
“For millions of sufferers and their families, Alzheimer’s is a bleak and arduous experience. Yet Fuchs’s unsentimental and often wry memoir should help them by showing that though there are certainly dark and precipitous times near the end, a life examined with totality and compassion can make that eventual end an experience not only of tragedy but dignified fulfillment.” — Michael Standaert, Los Angeles Times
“Making an Exit is a rare and wonderful rollercoaster of a book, tender and touching, hilarious and high-spirited - a moving portrait of a daughter and mother that is fiercely intelligent, ineffably sad, and, finally, transcendent.” — Kathleen Woodward, author of Aging and its Discontents
“Fuchs’s mother is larger than life in both her salad days and in her days of word salad. Making an Exit overflows with life — its sorrows and surprises, its follies and joys.” — Anne Basting, author of Forget Memory and editor of Playing Penelope: An Arts-Based Odyssey to Change Long-Term Care
“Tremendous... A book filled with unexpected glimmers of hope, wisdom, and joy... Fuchs possesses a delightfully wicked sense of humor and a sharp eye for the quirky detail. Fuchs [employs] a deft and efficient prose style, one akin to Augusten Burroughs, David Sedaris, and Anne Lamott.” — Greg Changnon, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
“Elinor’s mother Lil is a larger than life character who needs her daughter’s help to make an exit from life’s stage. While Elinor is burdened by her mother’s dementia, she is also uplifted by its possibilities for a late-blooming relationship. Dementia is ripe for social reconstruction, and Fuchs gives us hope with stories that reframe the challenge of cognitive loss in terms of loving relationship. Read this book, find deep humanity, and enrich yours.” — Peter Whitehouse, M.D., author of The Myth of Alzheimer’s and Professor of Neurology, Case Western Reserve University