Truth in the Time of Illness

Saying It Out Loud by Joan Abelove, DK Ink, $15.95

Mother-loss is a difficult problem to cope with at any age. However, perhaps the hardest time to deal with such a huge loss is the teenage years. In Saying It Out Loud, Joan Abelove writes from the perspective of an adolescent girl, Mindy, whose mother is dying of a brain tumor. This touching book allows the reader to travel with Mindy in her search for answers to questions for which, finally, there are no answers. Her mother’s illness has a very huge impact on her and she turns for support to her closest and dearest friend, Gail. When another friend of hers tries to ask about her mom, she simply replies, “I don’t talk about her to anyone but Gail.”

Painfully, her father is no help; he is there for her mother but cannot connect with his daughter during this tremendously difficult time. At the very end of the book Mindy speaks to her mom as if she is still alive, “I can’t take care of dad for you mama...he loves me in his own way. But his own way has so little to do with me it doesn’t feel like love at all.” This, of course, makes her loss even more traumatic for her. Mindy’s mom’s terminal illness gives an opportunity for this seemingly perfect family to uncover all secrets and lies. There was much about her mother that Mindy did not know and that she never even thought to question. That is one of the most devastating aspects of Mindy’s loss: just when she begins to get to know her mother as a person, she is ripped away from her. Though forced upon her, a seemingly overnight change occurs and she becomes independent and mature with a new understanding of the world. As observers, we, too, change with her and gain a new understanding.

Although Mindy is Jewish, this book does not focus narrowly on her faith. She reaches out to all, including those of us whose mothers are still breathing and healthy. The message is no less true for being predictable—stay close with the ones you love and savor every minute with them. Life is constantly changing for good or ill and no one can ever stop those changes from occurring.

Saying It Out Loud is a beautiful book, an easy read which fills you with such compassion for Mindy. It makes you think about the many questions of life and death, and can leave you full of hope.