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The Sweet By and By: A Novel Paperback – March 30, 2010
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"Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress"
Is the world really falling apart? Is the ideal of progress obsolete? Cognitive scientist and public intellectual Steven Pinker urges us to step back from the gory headlines and prophecies of doom, and instead, follow the data: In seventy-five jaw-dropping graphs, Pinker shows that life, health, prosperity, safety, peace, knowledge, and happiness are on the rise. Learn more
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Meet five North Carolina women who are about to change the way you think about friendship. For Rhonda, a gritty, fun-loving hairdresser in tight jeans, the sights and smells of Ridgecrest Nursing Center are depressing. But before she can change her mind about working there, two residents glue themselves to her: Margaret, droll and whip-smart, with a will of iron that never fails her even when her body does, and Bernice, an avid country music fan who is rarely lucid. Together with Lorraine, their church-going, God-questioning nurse, and her daughter, April, bright and ambitious, they lock arms in courage and humor for a journey that speaks to us allof how we live and die, of how we love and forgive.
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It has been a troubling, heart-wrenching journey. This past weekend we visited her former apartment, where she'd lived for more than three decades, to gather the clothes and things for her new life in the care home in my town. What does this have to do with the book?
I have a new understanding of what some of her feelings might be. Through Margaret and Lorraine, I have an idea of how to "be" when I am with her, which can be more frequently now that she'll be close. I understand the importance of dignity, and the indignities of growing old. I have already spoon fed her at times, but now will be more mindful and thankful when doing so. And I'm shopping for some new clothes for her. Looking good still matters to many women, regardless of age.
Many of us didn't have a Lorraine in our lives. We may have known a few Margarets or Bernices. Some of us are Anns, and some are Aprils, and a few are Rhondas of the world. Some may even be Connie's or Atheas. Some might be Clayton's wife... or Alvin, or Clayton, or Mike or whomever. What this book taught me is whether or not your're one of the above, there is a process.
As I read, I smiled, laughed, and--yes--cried. That's the mark of a powerful novel in my experience. One that you read into the wee hours of the morning, until your eyes burn and will no longer cooperate. A novel you then dream about and finish reading when you wake up.
My favorite line in the book (I won't hint or tell, find it!): "If you ever want to feel full in this life, you're gon have to ask if you might be made for somethin bigger than yourself. And when you can answer that, the only other question is what are you gon do about it."
I'm buying more copies of this novel to leave with staff at the care center my grandmother is moving to in town. I'm not parting with my own copy. And I hope to always carry this particular story with me. Thank you again to Mr. Johnson, to former reviewers, and to Amazon.
The writing is graceful. The story is not without sadness, but it also has hope.
The characters are so interesting it keeps drawing me back to read it again and again to learn more about how to live. Lorraine is the type of person I would like to be.
THE SWEET BY AND BY was written to honor the memory of his beloved grandmothers. He writes beautifully, and the different voices of his 5 women characters come through loud and clear. Mainly set in a nursing home where the passage of time is often liquid, with one day seeming like the next, the author uses the expertise of his craft to subtly indicate the passage of time without adding specifics like dates or days, except for holidays. I was in a quandary with this book--I was tempted to read it quickly because it was so well written and I wanted to find out what happened next to the ladies, but on the other hand, I wanted to read it slowly to savor the choice of words and how well Mr. Johnson shaped his story. Give it a read! I think you'll enjoy it, too! Who knows.....it might become YOUR new favorite book, too!
By the way, the author will answer you if you email him through his website. I emailed him to tell him how much I had enjoyed his book, and he offered to send me a signed bookplate for my copy. I took him up on his offer!
If you are, or everr have been a cre giver this is a must read, and even if you are not, someday yu may be and this will prepare you for the thoughts that go through their minds, you will become a much more compasionate person.
Most recent customer reviews
This book has a great ending and makes you think about your influence on friends and family while u r living and...Read more