Montpelier Tomorrow by Marylee MacDonald gives us a brutally honest journey into the lives of a family dealing with the devastating effects of ALS, Lou Gehrig’s Disease. The reality of the disease stays with the reader long after turning the last page.
Colleen has been a widow for many years and raised her three, now grown, children all on her own. Now she enjoys her work as a kindergarten teacher. Then comes the gut wrenching news that her daughter’s husband Tony has ALS. Colleen of course rushes to her daughter Sandy who has just had a baby with another young one at home. Colleen, wanting to do whatever she can to help, moves in with the family. However it ends up being much more time than she had wanted to spend away from her own life and ultimately Colleen ends up being Tony’s primary caregiver which she hadn’t wanted either. Colleen though is one of those take charge moms. She battles through it all and gets things done. It’s who she is.
The author realistically describes the work that goes into caring for someone with ALS, especially the fast moving type that Tony is afflicted with and it isn’t pretty or easy. To top things off Colleen and her daughter have always had a rocky relationship and Sandy doesn’t hesitate to be rude to her mother or unappreciative. Nonetheless Colleen stays and continues to do the majority of work with both Tony and the kids. Her love for her daughter shone through in every single thing she did even if Sandy couldn’t see it.
Unfortunately I didn’t connect with any of the characters but did to the story. I felt sorry for Colleen but sometimes her attitude towards things frustrated me a great deal and Sandy I just didn’t like at all. I know she was going through an extremely hard time but her treatment towards her mother turned me off completely. Even with a rocky relationship she should have been very grateful that her mother was willing to give up her life to help her care for her husband. I think I was looking for someone to sympathize with but their dispositions just didn’t evoke that in me. However the more I thought about I realized that this is, in all likelihood, how a real family would act. They would be understandably angry and resentful and maybe that’s a good way to portray them instead of the novels that portray everyone as being positive and always optimistic. In reality when a person’s world is completely falling apart they can’t always soldier on and pretend it’s all ok. I appreciated that in this story as it felt very real to me.
Montpelier Tomorrow is an excellent read for those in caregiver roles or for those dealing with ALS themselves. It would also make a very good bookclub choice as well. The topics for discussion are endless and the emotions that this novel evokes are enough for a discussion in itself. There is also a twist at the end that comes completely out of the blue and for me it just didn’t fit. I wish there had been a different end to it all but that doesn’t take away from the power of the novel itself.
Montpelier Tomorrow isn’t an easy read but it is definitely a worthwhile one.
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