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Never Coming Back by Alison McGhee
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Never Coming Back

by Alison McGhee

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I wasn't quite sure where we were going when I began this book and as I read I still wondered how this difficult mother and daughter situation was going to be, if ever, resolved. But I'm so glad I kept going! McGhee really captured the parts of people that we will never know, no matter how much talking, questioning. Peeling back the layers of Clara's relationship to her mother brought so much to my own look at parental connections. The ending had me in tears---well worth the initial questions I had about the book. ( )
  nyiper | Mar 26, 2018 |
Dementia diseases like Alzheimer’s strike a cold fear in my heart as well as a sense of resignation. The men from Jim’s paternal family have all died suffering from one dementia disease or another. He has witnessed the ravages of such diseases on his grandfather and his father and knows that there is a decent chance at least one out of his five siblings will also have the disease, if he does not also carry the genetic markers for it. Of the six of them though, Jim is the only one to actually talk about possibly having it. As such, I have a heightened awareness for anything having to do with the disease and am inexplicably drawn to novels about it. Hence my reading of Never Coming Back.

As you can imagine, Never Coming Back is not an easy book to read. Tamar and Clara do not have the best of relationships, so Clara has to come to grips with the fact that her opportunities for reconciliation are rapidly disappearing. At the same time, she has to wrestle with the changes to her life, the exhausting feat it is to take care of someone with a dementia disease, and her own memories. Clara is vulnerable as such children usually are, for no matter how close or tense the relationship is with your parent, watching him or her slowly disappear before your eyes is one of the most difficult things you will experience.

For all of its innate sadness however, Never Coming Back is a hopeful novel. In her determination to heal old wounds, Clara discovers who her mother really iss and is able to see her as a person first. Clara proves it is not too late to repair relationships, just as it is never too late to come home. As a large portion of the population reaches retirement age and faces illnesses related to age, Clara’s experiences are becoming the norm rather than the exception, so her ability to bridge those gaps and reach her mother is a beautiful reminder of what is possible when it seems all is lost.

Never Coming Back is not for everyone. It is not a novel I would recommend to my husband or his family, for example, because the emotions the story raises are a little too familiar for comfort. Yet, as someone who could only observe my husband’s pain during his father’s decline, Never Coming Back provided me better insight into his emotions and experiences. In a way, it better prepared me should the day come when our fears come true.
  jmchshannon | Nov 28, 2017 |
Thanks to The Book Club CookBook and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt for this book.

Even though it was a sad book, I really enjoyed it. Clara goes back to her home in the Adirondacks after finding out that her mom who is only in her early 50s has early on-set Alzhimer's. It's a look back into her life and her mother's through her mother's friend Annabelle Lee. Her friends Sunshine and Brown guide her through her problems (past and present). She reminisces about her boyfriend who was killed in Afghanistan and why he broke up with her so suddenly and find out why and how her mother was involved. I loved how she and her mother watched Jeopardy together. ( )
  sweetbabyjane58 | Nov 19, 2017 |
3.5 She left for college after the love of her life broke up with her, and didn't return for many years. Not until see hears that her mother s suffering from Alzheimer's disease, and has sold their home,all her possessions and entered nursing home. When. Rachel finally returns, looking for answers, she finds it too late, her mother, still fairly young, has very little memory left. She regrets never learning more about her mother, her mother's life and the burning question, Why did Asa breakup with her after talking to her mother?

This is a novel of loss, different types of loss, but loss all the same. It is beautifully, almost poetically written, but often repetitive as Rachel learns some answers to her questions. It is slowly paced, the kind of novel one needs to savor for the language and the emotion. Sometimes it almost had a YA vibe, as Rachel, now an adult still has many of the traits of her younger self. Almost as if she is stuck, needing the answer to the big question, needing to discover her mother's role in what became of her life. Jeopardy is a big part of tis, one of the ways Rachel connects to her mother in the nursing home. Also a connection between her and her college friends, Sunny and Brown, great characters, and loyal friends.

At a pivotal point in the novel, when she finds what she needs to know, she has this realization. "But the thing I hadn't known wen I was young and lacked perspective was that his love would always be with me. It was part of me forever. A room inside a room inside a room, a room that was always warm and bright. I could go and sit in that warmth whenever I wanted."

Thought the above quote wonderfully expressed sentiments all of us could use when dealing with an almost unbearable loss. There is friendship here and mother's love that put her child's welfare above her own happiness.

ARC from Edelweiss. ( )
  Beamis12 | Nov 5, 2017 |
What a beautiful book!

Clara returns to her home turf when her mother is diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s. She is reunited with her two best friends from college and meets an interesting new man as she struggles with losing the strong woman in her life with whom she has had a mixed relationship. An old mystery is solved and Clara comes to grips with the new life she must make for herself and her future.

Well written with a wonderful command of the English language (Clara is a “words” person) this novel is a poignant look at one woman’s relationship with her mother as well as life in general. I’m so glad I read it. ( )
  vkmarco | Oct 15, 2017 |
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"When Clara Winter left her rural Adirondack Mountain town for college, she never looked back. Her mother, Tamar, a fiercely independent but loving woman who raised Clara on her own, all but pushed her out the door, forcing Clara to build a new life for herself, far from her roots, far from her high school boyfriend, far from the life she has always known. Now more than a decade has passed, and Clara, a successful writer, has been summoned home. Tamar has become increasingly forgetful and can no longer live on her own. But just as her mother's memory is beginning to slip away, Clara's questions are building. Why was Tamar so insistent that Clara leave home all those years ago? Just what secrets was she hiding? If Clara, too, carries inside her the gene for early-onset Alzheimer's, what does that mean for her own future?"--… (more)

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