Fitness Rebecca Brown The Gifts of the Body

ISBN 13: 9780060926533

The Gifts of the Body

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9780060926533: The Gifts of the Body

An emotionally wrenching work of fiction about a health-care worker who tenders compassion and love to victims of AIDS, by an author who "strips her language of convention to lay bare the ferocious rituals of love and need."--New York Times Book Review

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From Kirkus Reviews:

Brown (The Children's Crusade, not reviewed) relates this slow, doleful tale of a home-care volunteer for people with AIDS in an unsentimental voice that treats illness and dying with a sort of reverence--but which also fails to generate much interest. The unnamed narrator in an unnamed city is a long-time volunteer for Urban Community Services, a program founded to provide care for people with AIDS (PWAs). As the number of PWAs grew and new medicine allowed them to live longer, the need for home-care workers, respite workers, buddies, a food bank, and home meals expanded, so that UCS is now a significant community presence with government funding. The narrator manages to slip in this textbook information while describing the time she spends each week with various clients: Connie, an old woman who was infected with HIV during a blood transfusion while undergoing a mastectomy; Rick, a young gardener who's going downhill fast; Ed, an angry soap-opera addict who doesn't want to enter the hospice because no one ever leaves there alive; Carlos, who is sometimes incontinent and trying to deal with the embarrassment of his new condom catheter; Marty, an old friend of Carlos's, who reveals that he helped Carlos kill himself because he was in so much pain at the end; Keith, a man virtually covered with quarter-sized purple sores that the narrator, for the first time since starting her work, has a hard time dealing with (he ``really looked like the plague''). In the end, the narrator realizes that her difficulty with Keith was a sign of burn-out and accepts the drain that comes with watching people die. So when Margaret, a friend and the head of home-care services at UCS, tests positive, quitting this kind of work is the only way the narrator can recapture hope for a cure. Guilt-inducing for those who expect good writing and find themselves yawning over people's deathbeds. (Author tour) -- Copyright ©1994, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

From Publishers Weekly:

The unnamed narrator of this beautifully controlled, immensely affecting novel, is a home care aid who helps those afflicted with AIDS. In a series of brief chapters written in casually vernacular language, Brown depicts this woman's visits to a varied group of victims, including young gay men, an elderly widow infected through a blood transfusion and a fellow volunteer. The narrator brings to them the gifts of tender care, compassion and respect. They in turn give her the gifts of insight, openness and intimacy; they teach her about dignity and courage. She observes the inexorability of their decline: young men prematurely moribund, "like a bunch of 95-year-olds watching their generation die." She understands the ironies: the anxious wait for a room at a hospice and the realization that "when you actually got it, it was like getting your [death] sentence." As one by one her clients die, her deliberate emotional distancing gives way to the pain of loss; she realizes that for the victims of this plague, the gift of mercy is the gift of death, and that the final gift is the gift of mourning. Brown (The Children's Crusade) brings off her difficult task with assured sensitivity. Deceptively simple, the narrative grows in power, establishing a strong bond of empathy in the reader and conveying the visceral impact of a shared emotional experience. Author tour.
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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