Wednesday, November 4, 2009

The Sweet By and By

There is so much I have going through my mind after finishing up The Sweet By and By by Todd Johnson. This is one book that I will think about long after having read it.

Johnson's novel is told in five voices: Margaret, Bernice, Lorraine, Rhonda and April. Much of it is set in a nursing home where life remains much the same day after day. As I tried to find a way to sum up nicely the entire plot, I visited Johnson website. Taken from his book discussion guide on his site,

In The Sweet By and By, five Southern women’s lives come together in an unlikely journey of courage, hope, and humor. Even when faced with difficult choices and often fragile memories, all five women must learn to reconcile their respective pasts, find forgiveness, and relish in the joy of life.
Of course, this is no easy task: most of the novel is set in a nursing home, where the sameness of each day creeps into every page of the calendar. While Bernice and Margaret confront their increasing loss of faculties, April and Rhonda struggle to define what it means to live fully, and Lorraine finds her identity in compassionate giving. Together, their stories quilt together richly different experiences of aging, childhood, of living and dying, and in so doing, challenge readers to examine how time passes in their own lives, the people whose paths they cross via chance or circumstance, and the impact of these encounters on their own life stories.

I lack any better way of summarizing this moving story. As I read I could see visions of my own grandmother and her time at the nursing home with other residents and the workers who helped her in her final years. I also remember her own recollection one day of eating supper with "this girl that she had known." I looked questioningly at my mom, wondering what "girl" was at the home, only to have it explained, that the girl in question was over ninety years old and had attended school with my grandmother. Even at ninety years old, there was a bit of a child in her, and also a disbelief that her life was passing by and she was no longer the child/young woman/mother she once was. In the Sweet By and By I felt this with both Bernice and Margaret who wanted to recapture some of their independence and fun as they set off on their adventure away from the nursing home.

April and Rhonda and Lorraine all learn so much about themselves in this book, and since the story takes place over a span of years it is interesting to see how they change and grow as well.

I would highly recommend this book to any book discussion group. There are so many things to discuss in this book: friendship, finding yourself, aging to name just a few. This is a wonderful story for people of all ages.
To find out more about Todd Johnson, visit his website.

1 comment:

Jill said...

I was a fan of this one, too!