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Informative,
Unconvincing,
Insightful

4 reviews

Imperfect Endings: A Daughter's Tale of Life and Death
by Zoe FitzGerald Carter

Published: 2010-03-02
Hardcover : 272 pages
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Recommended to book clubs by 3 of 4 members
Zoe FitzGerald Carter’s mother, Margaret, is a beautiful, independent-minded woman who has suffered from Parkinson’s for over twenty years. Knowing that her future holds only further indignities, Margaret decides to “end things” -- and asks that her three daughters to be there with her when ...
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Introduction

Zoe FitzGerald Carter’s mother, Margaret, is a beautiful, independent-minded woman who has suffered from Parkinson’s for over twenty years. Knowing that her future holds only further indignities, Margaret decides to “end things” -- and asks that her three daughters to be there with her when she does it. For a year, Zoe flies back and forth from her home on the West Coast with her husband and children, to her mother’s home in Washington D.C. As she struggles to come to terms with her mother’s decision, she revisits scenes from her past, including an adolescent eating disorder, a philandering, larger-than-life father, and two warring older sisters. Moving, provocative and surprisingly funny, Imperfect Endings is the story of a woman finding the courage to die; of a daughter finding the strength to parent her mother; and of a family learning to love and let go. Imperfect Endings won first place in the Pacific Northwest Writer’s Association’s literary contest and was excerpted in the March 2010 issue of O magazine. It is currently a Barnes & Noble “Discover Great New Writer’s” pick.

Editorial Review

No editorial review at this time.

Excerpt

Chapter One:

I don’t have to answer the phone. On my knees in the bathroom, daughters just settled into the tub, I have the perfect excuse to ignore it. Let the machine pick it up instead. But I push off my knees and head for the door, my brain several steps behind my body as it usually is by this time of day. ... view entire excerpt...

Discussion Questions

From the author:

1. Mother/daughter relationships are the backbone of this story. Skim pages 80–84. Talk about each daughter’s relationship with her mother, and with the other daughters. Why is Zoe so alienated from her older sister, Katherine?
2. Zoe’s mother, Margaret, does not seem to notice significant problems with those around her, such as her husband’s affairs and Zoe’s anorexia. Yet she is very picky about little things, such as appearances. Do you believe she was unaware of those larger issues, or was she perhaps willfully blind?
3. Zoe and her sisters and husband all express feeling that Margaret’s wish to die and have them help her is asking too much. Is that too much to expect from a loved one? Does she truly have the right to end her own life, even though it has such an impact on those around her? Is there anything she could have done to make it easier on her family?

Suggested by Members

What do you think of the parallelism between Zoe's battle with anorexia and the way her mother considers ending her life? Is it strange that one situation is considered a disease to be cured and one is considered an act of bravery?
by tsuski (see profile) 09/24/10

Notes From the Author to the Bookclub

Note from the Author:

The experience of having my mother take her life was enormously difficult and raised a lot of questions about what it meant to be a good daughter; I wasn’t sure if that meant trying to talk my mother out of killing herself, or helping her do it. I wrote the book in part to better understand that dilemma.

I also knew that lots of people were going through some version of my story. There are 75 million baby boomers and many have parents who are getting old or sick. I felt that telling my story, warts and all, might offer some solace to others who are facing these difficult end-of-life decisions.

Book Club Recommendations

Member Reviews

Overall rating:
 
 
  "Imperfect Endings: When you know the killer ..."by neighborhoodBookClub (see profile) 10/17/10

This book is from the unique perspective of knowing the 'how' and 'when' of someone's death ... I have to say dealing with a very similar situation in my life I was happy to get another person's snapshot... (read more)

 
  "Imperfect Endings: A little short of insightful"by tsuski (see profile) 09/24/10

I am glad I read this book, but I found it often slow and generally hopeless. I thought some of the incidents in the author's own childhood were more interesting than the main topic of the book: her mother's... (read more)

 
  "Imperfect Endings: A Daughters Tale of Life and Death"by cfreiche (see profile) 09/12/10

I went into reading this book with hopes of learning something from someone's experience. Unfortunately I only found my self annoyed with the author. The Mother/Daughter relationship seemed to have never... (read more)

 
  "imperfect endings"by jodibutler (see profile) 09/12/10

I would never have walked through the bookstore and bought this book, however, I am glad I read it. It is definitely a book that makes you think about life and death differently. It is also a good insight... (read more)

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