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Driving Miss Norma: One Family's Journey Saying "Yes" to Living Hardcover – May 2, 2017
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“This touching memoir…lays bare the fragile reality of human life, the deep strength of family bonds, and what it means to truly take in all the world has to offer.” (Mindful)
“For the first time, as Bauerschmidt writes in this endearing memoir, they got to know one another as adults, and their trip transformed into a warm, thoughtful, and meaningful conversation on family, aging, caretaking, and what happens when you look to other ways to heal besides Western medicine.” (<b><i>Publishers Weekly, Starred Review</i></b>)
“Depicting the ageless human capacity to learn and grow, the authors celebrate life and offer a heartfelt vision of what dying a good death really means. An uplifting and life-affirming memoir” (Kirkus)
“This is a delightful chronicle of a family determined to celebrate life rather than dread death, and everyone can learn from their courage.” (<b><i>Booklist, Starred Review</i></b>)
From the Back Cover
When Miss Norma was diagnosed with uterine cancer, she was advised to undergo surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy. But instead of confining herself to a hospital bed for what could be her last stay, Miss Norma—newly widowed after nearly seven decades of marriage—rose to her full height of five feet and told the doctor, “I’m ninety years old. I’m hitting the road.”
And so Miss Norma took off on an unforgettable around-the-country journey in a thirty-six-foot motor home with her retired son Tim, his wife Ramie, and their dog Ringo.
As this once timid woman says “yes” to living in the face of death, she tries regional foods for the first time, reaches for the clouds in a hot air balloon, and mounts up for a horseback ride. With each passing mile (and one educational visit to a cannabis dispensary), Miss Norma’s health improves and conversations that had once been taboo begin to unfold. Norma, Tim, and Ramie bond in ways they had never done before, and their definitions of home, family, and friendship expand. Stop by stop, state by state, they meet countless people from all walks of life—strangers who become fast friends and welcome them with kindness and open hearts.
Infused with this irrepressible nonagenarian’s wisdom, courage, and generous spirit, Driving Miss Norma is the charming, infectiously joyous chronicle of their experiences on the road. It portrays a transformative journey of living life on your own terms that shows us it is never too late to begin an adventure, inspire hope, or become a trailblazer.
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This book brought back those fun times, as I picked it up as a Kindle product, transferred it to my tablet, and finished the blast read four hours later. It's that good.
Tim and Ramie are no Dick Francis; there's no mystery here. (Spoiler: the protagonist dies.) They are excellent storytellers, alternating their voices to create different perspectives on their 402-day journey with Norma, along with a prequel, a sequel (Norma kept a journal!), and flashbacks. As a FB page follower, I'd stalked up the obituary for Tim's sister Stacy. He took several paragraphs to round out her story. He also tells us about his interest in cooking, and Ramie provides backstory on her life. They answer many of the questions I'd found myself wondering -- what about the house in Presque Isle? what happened to the Airstream? and develop many new intriguing tales. Norma getting a hero veteran's welcome at the WWII museum in New Orleans (I've been there -- the description is spot on). The nomads in campgrounds and Wal-Mart parking lots. A chance message from a follower in Maine; they dropped by her office and then found her doing tai chi at the Y. The ranks of female sailors aboard the Gerald R. Ford aircraft carrier. And of course, the viral popularity of their Facebook page.
Keep the tissues handy. I needed them when a young man told them, "after reading about your story, we took our first family vacation together, ever." And thinking about my own parents who died in hospital beds, suffering. (I'd tried to take Ma on one last trip to her beloved Mackinac Island, but it was "too far" and "too much trouble" and "what about my oxygen tank.") Ramie describes wanting to help make a difference in the world; that's already happened.