All Things Consoled. Elizabeth Hay.

Hay, Elizabeth. All Things Consoled. McClelland Stewart, Toronto. 2018. Memoir;6/19.

I liked Hay’s Late Nights on Air, although I haven’t reviewed it. It had true Canadian down-home style like Annie Proulx’s, Sinclair Lewis’s, and of course Alice Munro’s. I have wired-in receptors for this kind of thing because of my mother who grew up in rural Saskatchewan during the depression. This memoir also rang familiar bells because of geriatrics/dementia/nursing home content I saw handled from my point of view not quite as well by Katy Butler.

The early part was the best, and there Hay’s lovely generalities that I didn’t even have to make from the strong family events she describes captured the interest of this next-generation rural Canadian elder-doctor apparently without even trying. Mum and Dad far from perfect, regarded ambivalently but claiming the loyalty of anyone who’s had kids or for that matter parents even when the unspoken moral absolute has been sorely tested.

Later narrative events didn’t affect me quite the same way, maybe I’ve seen too many nursing homes and demented people, possibly because my mum died young and my dad died suddenly. But there’s persistent and elegant honesty and conflict analysis here that is well worth the trouble.

Recommended. 8.6/8.2

About John Sloan

John Sloan is a senior academic physician in the Department of Family Practice at the University of British Columbia, and has spent most of his 40 years' practice caring for the frail elderly in Vancouver. He is the author of "A Bitter Pill: How the Medical System is Failing the Elderly", published in 2009 by Greystone Books. His innovative primary care practice for the frail elderly has been adopted by Vancouver Coastal Health and is expanding. Dr. Sloan lectures throughout North America on care of the elderly.
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