In a unique fusion of fact and fiction, Marylee MacDonald’s ‘Montpelier Tomorrow’ tells the gripping story of a woman confronted with her son-in-law’s devastating ALS diagnosis. She moves in, attempts to become the perfect caregiver, but quickly realizes that the illness infects far more than its victim. This is certainly no beach read, but a vital insight into how disease and disability change the dynamics of seemingly-normal families. Instead of just pouring ice over their heads, millions around the world now have a chance to glimpse what ALS actually is.
Tempe, AZ -- (SBWIRE) -- 11/03/2014 -- While Ebola now appears to be the media’s ‘big thing’, millions of ‘Ice Bucket Challenge’ videos recently stormed YouTube in an effort to raise vital awareness and funds for ALS research. But it begs the question – did people really know what they were doing it for, and did they care about ALS at all? Award-winning author Marylee MacDonald cared for her son-in-law after his own diagnosis, and has released a thought-provoking novel that invites the public to ‘live’ the disease.
‘Montpelier Tomorrow’ isn’t joyful, chock-full of quips, or even that happy at all. However, it’s a rare opportunity for someone who has cared for an ALS patient to fictionalize the daily realities of a life where a person’s best efforts are never good enough.
Mid-life mom, Colleen Gallagher would do anything to protect her children from harm. When her daughter's husband falls ill with ALS, Colleen rolls up her sleeves and moves in, juggling the multiple roles of grandma, cook, and caregiver, only to discover that even her superhuman efforts can't fix what's wrong.
Her stop-gap efforts—shuttling frozen casseroles; giving the couple an occasional weekend away—don’t help. Tony’s condition worsens, and Colleen steps in to become his caregiver.
Tony’s ditzy, shopaholic mother spoils the grandchildren. Her presence--and Colleen’s--disrupts the nuclear family. Too much help puts stress on the sick man’s marriage. Instead of being grateful, Colleen’s daughter resents the two grandmothers and the way the “whole world revolves around Tony.”
“This is how this vicious disease plays out in the real world,” admits MacDonald, whose stories have won the ALR Fiction Prize, the Barry Hannah Prize, the Jeanne M. Leiby Memorial Chapbook Award, the Matt Clark Prize, and the Ron Rash Award. “Everyone around the ill individual also becomes a victim, and I kept a journal so I could document the experiences that all seemed so foreign to me at the time. In the late 1990s I started to think about turning it into a novel. It has never been timelier as people everywhere tip buckets of ice over their heads. If they dare, I’ll put them in front of the Tsunami each family is forced to get hit by.”
Continuing, “There are many questions behind the novel that readers can explore: What draws families together? What drives them apart? What happens when a mother who only wants to help ends up also battling with her daughter who is trying to be the perfect wife? There’s also a gut-wrenching question: what happens when the ill family member doesn’t die, but goes on and on and on? The answers are not easy to face, but they’re important. I discovered that the hard way.”
Since its release, the book has attracted a string of rave reviews. Literary Fiction Book Review comments, “Montpelier Tomorrow is a touching read that highlights not only the challenges faced by those suffering from ALS, but the resounding strength of love that unites a family in the face of overwhelming grief. This is also an uplifting tale that underscores the resilience of the human spirit and the unbreakable strength of the family bond.”
Author Jewell Parker Rhodes adds, “An engaging and heartfelt novel about the intricate relationships among family dealing with disease and disability. Characters are vivid, relatable, and all too imperfectly human. An emotional read.”
John Lauer praises the author for releasing the book at a time when it is needed the most. He adds, “This is a fantastic read. The book is beautifully written. With wisdom, humor and tremendous insight, it deals with the pain of a mother trying to help navigate through the tragedy of a son-in-law dying of ALS. This should be required reading for anyone taking the viral ice-bucket challenge.”
‘Montpelier Tomorrow’, from All Things That Matter Press, is available now: http://amzn.to/1vlePKa
About Marylee MacDonald
Marylee MacDonald has won the Barry Hannah Prize, the Jeanne M. Leiby Memorial Chapbook Award, the Matt Clark Prize, the ALR Fiction Prize, and the Ron Rash Award. Her fiction and creative nonfiction have appeared in American Literary Review, Bellevue Literary Review, Blue Moon Literary & Art Review, Broad River Review, Folio, Four Quarters, New Delta Review, North Atlantic Review, Raven Chronicles, Reunion, River Oak Review, Ruminate, StoryQuarterly, Superstition Review, The Briar Cliff Review, Yalobusha Review, and others. She has been a Writing Fellow at the Virginia G. Piper Center for Creative Writing and received an Illinois Arts Council Fellowship for Fiction. She has five children and fourteen grandchildren and is married to Bruce Rittmann.