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Publisher's Summary

In the spirit of Fierce Attachments and The End of Your Life Book Club, acclaimed novelist Brian Morton delivers a “superb” (Maureen Corrigan, Fresh Air), darkly funny memoir of his mother’s vibrant life and the many ways in which their tight, tumultuous relationship was refashioned in her twilight years.

Tasha Morton is a force of nature: a brilliant educator who’s left her mark on generations of students—and also a whirlwind of a mother, intrusive, chaotic, oppressively devoted, and irrepressible.

For decades, her son Brian has kept her at a self-protective distance, but when her health begins to fail, he knows it’s time to assume responsibility for her care. Even so, he’s not prepared for what awaits him, as her refusal to accept her own fragility leads to a series of epic outbursts and altercations that are sometimes frightening, sometimes wildly comic, and sometimes both. 

Clear-eyed, “deeply stirring” (Dani Shapiro, The New York Times Book Review), and brimming with dark humor, Tasha is both a vivid account of an unforgettable woman and a stark look at the impossible task of caring for an elderly parent in a country whose unofficial motto is “you’re on your own.” 

©2022 Brian Morton. All rights reserved. (P)2022 Simon & Schuster, Inc. All rights reserved.

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Loved this book

My husband is in the process of dying from an incurable disease called MSA so I found the end of life issues so poignant

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Refreshingly raw, humorous and relatable!

I love that the author does not hide from the harsh reality that we all eventually face of watching our parents decline and eventually pass, but rather approaches the subject with humor, warmth, love and compassion. Anyone with an aging parent can relate and feel less alone and see an example of one son’s journey navigating this unpredictable and difficult period of one’s life with humor, grace, and a genuine attempt to understand and portray the woman his mother really was.

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I Can't Help But Feel There's Something Missing

I appreciate the effort for the author to be willing to see his mother as what she was, not what she is/was in his memories, in this memoir of his. However, I don't think he was able to sufficiently include the most important part of Tasha's person -- her children.

The book follows a chronological timeline interwoven with flashbacks, starting from Tasha's first sign of losing herself to age, to her first signs of dementia, to her demise. Morton seems less interested to talk about those times in terms of feelings, and I can see why that could be an intended effect. The description of Tasha's life before her stroke is tinted with rose colored glasses. She was a rebellious child, running from her home and changing her name at 16. She was a communist, who worked in a labor union. She was a revolutionary grade school teacher, working miracles for slow children. Those are all praise and accomplishment that can be so easily packaged in a box and sold to a stranger. Juxtapose that to her current form -- frail, losing her independence, and stubborn -- the gray tinted glasses of the realities of old age. I say that's intentional, because as the book progresses, Morton cleverly blends the rose-tinted and the grey-tinted together, telling the audience that Tasha doesn't have a "before the stroke" and "after the stroke". I think this is ultimately the book's strength. The climax of Chapter 37, where Morton surmises Tasha's dying words' meaning, features a furious monologue that feels like an overwhelming force of sorrow, that engulfed me and forced me to looks at Tasha's grievances, all of them, all at once. That climax was set up masterfully, and paid off handsomely, for me.

There is once thing that I feel is missing from the mosaic of Tasha that Morton managed to piece together for the reader. A missing section, if you will, and that is Tasha's relationship with her children. The book talks a lot about the things that Melinda and Brian did for Tasha during her old age, but didn't really dive into how their actions make Tasha feel. This "missing shape" is felt especially at Chapter 37, Where Tasha's last breath seem to curse her children for their neglect, but doesn't really feel like it was set up properly. As a result, I couldn't really relate to why she would have been so angry with her children. But given that Morton is Brian, I can see how such an undertaking can seem invisible.

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what to do?

Could feel the family's struggles with how to help mom, and her frustration as well.