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The Things That Need Doing: A Memoir [Kindle Edition]

Sean Manning
3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)

Print List Price: $15.00
Kindle Price: $11.54
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Sold by: Random House LLC

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Book Description

“You keep fighting, okay?” I whispered. “We’re in this together. You and me. You’re not alone. You hear me? You are not alone.

5:38 p.m. It was the precise moment Sean Manning was born and the time each year that his mother wished him happy birthday. But just before he turned twenty-seven, their tradition collapsed. A heart attack landed his mom in the hospital and uprooted Manning from his life in New York. What followed was a testament to a family’s indestructible bond—a life-changing odyssey that broke a boy and made a man—captured here in Manning’s indelible memoir.

From the Trade Paperback edition.

Editorial Reviews Review

Guest Reviewer: James Frey on The Things That Need Doing

Beginning in late September 2006, fifty-eight-year-old public health nurse and lifelong Akron, Ohio resident Susan Manning endured some thirteen months of hospitalization following a heart attack and cancer diagnosis, the majority of that time spent at the world-renowned Cleveland Clinic. (Price tag: $2.4 million.) And for all but a couple of days, her only child, twenty-seven-year-old New York City transplant and aspiring writer Sean, was there at her bedside, right up until the moment of her death. He contends that reading Joan Didion’s The Year of Magical Thinking and Philip Roth’s Patrimony did little to help him cope with his grief; yet like those two works, The Things That Need Doing is unflinching in its portrayal of sickness—relentless vomiting, coughed-up blood clots, seeping orifices and leaking tubes. Manning also turns his unsparing eye on the hospital environment, capturing everything from the color-coded scrubs to the framed newspaper articles lining the hallways to the different stitching on the white coats of training and attending doctors, all of it “intended to engender trust, allay fear, promote tranquility, emit refinement, and above all conceal the chaos and profaneness truer to its character.” Tempering this nightmarish drama is Manning’s comically aggrieved Cleveland sports fandom as well as his fascinating family history. His grandfather was a basketball star at Akron’s St. Vincent-St. Mary High School seventy years ahead of LeBron James. His father rose from rubber factory production line to the company’s front office while Susan changed careers and enrolled in college at age forty. Then there’s the unprecedented amicableness of his parents’ divorce. So close would they remain, in fact, that his father visited the hospital almost as regularly as Sean himself, as did his mother’s siblings and best friend and Sean’s girlfriend, who flew in from New York every other weekend. “What gets most people,” he writes, “is that I went through all this without any brothers and sisters. But…I wasn’t on my own.” Nor is anyone who’s ever experienced or is perhaps in the midst of experiencing the prolonged illness of a loved one—not after reading this inspiring, heartbreaking, often hilarious and altogether important book.

From Publishers Weekly

An only child's final months caring for his dying mother proves an ordinary, universal story--and tremendously moving in the hands of Akron, Ohio-born journalist Manning. After complications from a heart attack, Manning's mother, a 58-year-old nurse who had battled asthma and Hodgkin's lymphoma earlier in her life, spends a year in Cleveland Clinic's Respiratory Special Care Unit undergoing intensely painful and intrusive treatments including feeding tubes and lung suctioning. When his mother grows increasingly debilitated, despite moments of hope, and isn't strong enough to undergo the radiation needed to combat a cancerous clot found in her lungs, she's eventually moved to an Akron hospice. At the time, Manning was a journalist and caterer living in New York City with his girlfriend, Elaine, and just turning 27; he moved to Cleveland, visiting his mother daily and advocating for her care. He re-creates this wrenching time with the help of his Aunt Claire's journal, alternating these events with memories of his growing up in Akron, attending St. Vincent–St. Mary's school, into Cleveland's professional sports teams. He expresses by turns his incredulity and anger at his mother's final agony, resigned to his powerlessness, and simply determined to do what he could until the end: love her. (Dec.)
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

Product Details

  • File Size: 534 KB
  • Print Length: 258 pages
  • Publisher: Broadway Books (December 28, 2010)
  • Sold by: Random House LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B003EI2EFE
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,457,838 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing, it could have been so much more. December 21, 2010
Format:Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Being an only child and having lost one parent and the other ailing, I was hoping to find some insight in this book. It was there to a small extent, but you really had to hunt for it. I cannot critique how another deals with loss, but I did not find what I was looking for in how this book was written.

Sean Manning the author tells the story of his Mom's illness and eventual death with great reliance on sports metaphors and medical jargon. Unfortunately both were lost on me.

I realize when you have a love of a particular sport, you use this mechanism to provide analogies of difficult situations. Also certain sports news milestones give you a sense of time. Similarly when a loved one is ill, you see upsets and good luck in areas that you hope extend to them as well. I get all this. What I don't get is the degree to which the detail of these sport events and stories are spelled out in this book. The author went into such details about various teams and athletes that I was wondering if I had accidentally ordered the wrong book. I understand the analogy with the Eastern European basketball player that lost twins. That was brief and pertinent and added to the story. The extent of the rest did not.

The exhaustive detail with with various medical equipment and procedures also led me to believe the author wrote from a bedside notebook concerned to get the lingo correct, so a medical person would not fault him for accuracy. This was not helpful, nor did it add much to the story. I didn't know what half of this stuff was, nor was I inclined to look it up. I wanted to read about the author, him Mom, his family and the staff he dealt with.

I understand what the author went through was life changing and upsetting to the max.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Moving memoir... November 2, 2010
Format:Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Sean Manning has written a memoir of his mother's last year of life, basically spent in full time hospital and then, at the end, hospice care. Susie Manning, a nurse, was felled by a heart attack and then developed cancer. Sean doesn't give her age, but I think she was probably in her late 50's when she died. A relatively young woman.

I don't know why readers choose to read a book like Sean Manning has written, but I know why he wrote it. Often, it seems, the long illness and ultimate death of a beloved family member or friend can best be dealt with by writing about it. Sean, a professional writer in his late 20's, tries to make sense of her illness and death and does so in a very lovely book, which captures the closeness of his relationship with his parents - who divorced when Sean was fairly young - and the closeness they had with each other. Love and caring doesn't always end with a divorce decree as the Mannings regard for each other shows in the way Sean's father cared for his former wife. He also writes about the problems in the medical system - fortunately Susie Manning had very good insurance and her care was pretty well taken care of, but as Sean points out, his mother was one of the fortunate few. But "good" insurance doesn't always preclude the difficulty that often arises in the assigning of payment for care ordered by a medical team.

I liked Sean's use of sports - both pro and amateur - in his story. A life-long Cavalier fan, Sean shared the love of basketball with his mother.

His is a memoir written with love and compassion.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Having relocated and been at my dad's bedside during his final chapter (8 months), I ordered this book as a way to share the path with compassion. Kind of like being in the same club. The other reviewers do a great job at synopsis and details so I will address my own experience reading Sean's memoir. I admire and appreciate his GREAT love for his mom and his journey to write this book and get it published. I suspect I had some high expectations that are not fair given my own personal experience. I had a challenging time getting and staying connected to Sean's story. Perhaps it was all the side stories, sports references ~ I'm not sure. To be fair, I haven't finished reading the book because it hasn't flowed for me. I was motivated to read it, wanted to out of honoring Sean's and his mom's life and process, but I haven't wanted to - I suspect - because there's a lot to read through to get to those tender and intimate parts with his mom, in him, etc. I don't want to diminish or turn away anyone seeking for some help or companionship if they are traveling this path of experience with a loved one in their last chapter. This is a highly personal experience and each one is unique and special. I found THE MERCY PAPERS by Robin Romm a more connected read (on this topic) for me. Bottom Line: Sean Manning loved his Mom so much and I deeply appreciate all he's done, faced and given in honor of his love.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Shows life through details, but didn't make me care December 17, 2010
Format:Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
This is the story of a son who cares for a dying mother. He tells it through details, but details that the author didn't make matter. He nearly lost me in the first chapters which obsessed about Cleveland ball teams and his youthful allegiances, interspersed with tales of the ICU where his mother was being treated. I love reading and rarely put down a decent book, but it was like pulling teeth for me to read enough of this book to review it. While I appreciate that the author was trying to make the trivia of life tell his story, I frankly wasn't that interested.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
1.0 out of 5 stars do not buy this book
I will read almost anything, and I really mean anything. I have elderly parents of my own, and am drawn to stories about the loved elderly folks of my contemporaries. Read more
Published on October 19, 2012 by Ladybug
2.0 out of 5 stars Clumsy
It's hard to write a negative review of this book, because a personal story of a guy grief for his mother. But it has to be said that the book is just not well done. Read more
Published on September 27, 2012 by Brian J. Greene
4.0 out of 5 stars Memoir of a son's devotion
Thought difficult to read at times, this book is above all, honest and touching. Sean Manning relocates home to Cleveland from New York City to care for his relatively young... Read more
Published on August 2, 2011 by S. Montgomery
5.0 out of 5 stars Essential reading for anyone dealing with the challenges of an ill...
There is no once-through user manual for what to do while your parent, or anyone you deeply love, is seriously ill in the hospital. Really, there isn't. Read more
Published on February 16, 2011 by Bookreporter
4.0 out of 5 stars Touching memoir of a devoted son...
"The things that need doing" narrates the events that take place over the course of a year as the author, Sean Manning, attended to his mother's illness and subsequent death from a... Read more
Published on January 20, 2011 by Monica J. Kern
3.0 out of 5 stars Touching, Painful, Difficult
This book is certainly not escapist literature especially if you have dealt with critically and/or chronically ill parents/s. Read more
Published on January 20, 2011 by Geneva Lewis
5.0 out of 5 stars Honest and moving
This is an incredibly moving narrative from an extremely talented young man. I had fallen in love with Manning's editorial voice when reading Rock and Roll Cage Match Rock and... Read more
Published on January 11, 2011 by A. J. Crall
5.0 out of 5 stars Becoming one of the family under trying circumstances
Sean Manning generously shares the time he spent with his mother in the hospital. He writes about it in great detail. Read more
Published on December 27, 2010 by Noneofyourbiz
5.0 out of 5 stars A Son's Devotion
This was a truly wonderful little book. The story of a son and his tenacity and love for his mother, as he stays by her side for over a year as she is dying. Read more
Published on December 10, 2010 by Jeanne Anderson
4.0 out of 5 stars Writing as Healing
"The Things that Need Doing" includes a quote from Ford Madox Ford who says that people write about the collapse of something significant "just to get the sight out of their... Read more
Published on December 4, 2010 by deeper waters
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More About the Author

Sean Manning is the author of the memoir "The Things That Need Doing" and editor of five critically-acclaimed anthologies: "The Show I'll Never Forget: 50 Writers Relive Their Most Memorable Concertgoing Experience"; "Rock and Roll Cage Match: Music's Greatest Rivalries, Decided"; "Top of the Order: 25 Writers Pick Their Favorite Baseball Player of All-Time"; "Bound to Last: 30 Writers on Their Most Cherished Book"; and "Come Here Often?: 53 Writers Raise a Glass to Their Favorite Bar." He has contributed to Playboy, The Village Voice, The Daily Beast, Deadspin, New York Press, BlackBook, The Awl, The Millions and The Brooklyn Rail and is a frequent guest commentator on WNYC's "Soundcheck." He also edits the book jacket-design blog Talking Covers. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.


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