4 out of 4 stars
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Quebec: A Novel by Tim Castano is a poignant narrative of a man in his thirties who is simultaneously coping with his mother's Alzheimer's disease and an unforeseen divorce. Just as he must learn to navigate the challenges of being newly single during the latter stages of his mother's illness, the mother and son are also learning to reframe their relationship as her disease progresses. Over the years, his mother has visited the Basilica of Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupré to pray for guidance. Trying to rebuild his life and hoping for direction, he travels to Quebec to visit the shrine that has been a source of comfort to his mother. "My mother had granted me a gift, a lifetime of devotion captured in a message she no longer could deliver."
This bittersweet first-person narrative is well written and exceptionally edited. Castano writes with self-deprecating humor and traverses themes of family, sorrow, guilt, regret, hope, resilience, faith, understanding, and devotion. He skillfully balances the range of emotions and sometimes seemingly random musings associated with the pain of divorce and the grief related to the progression of Alzheimer’s disease. Castano nails many of the awkward firsts after divorce, such as answering the endless stream of questions and the fear of disappointing parents and family. Although the book is fiction, the snippets of dialogue between mother and son have the authenticity of someone who has dealt with Alzheimer's disease or dementia:
"Do I know your mother?"
"Actually, you are my mother."
"I didn't know that. How long have I been your mother?"
"For as long as I can remember."
"That's amazing. Really?"
I particularly like Castano's portrayal of the son's tenderness with his mother. Through the engaging narrative, the author realistically conveys the son's willingness to adapt on his mother's behalf; learning not to correct her lapses in memory and seeking new ways to bond has been as much of a journey as accepting the illness itself. I also enjoyed Castano's creative inclusion of music throughout the story from Lou Rawls to Frank Sinatra. It is as though the reader is treated to the story's soundtrack, whether the mother and son are connecting through a song or a particular piece reflects his melancholy. Interestingly, other than references to Mom and Dad, only the musicians are mentioned by name.
As I can find nothing to highlight for improvement, I am pleased to rate Quebec 4 out of 4 stars. I recommend the engaging read to those who appreciate humorous first-person narratives. It will also appeal to music lovers, newly divorced readers, and those navigating Alzheimer's disease or dementia with loved ones. The book contains no profanity.
Quebec: A Novel
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