Lou Ann Hunter’s mother, Patricia, has always had a passionate nature, which explains why she’s been married and divorced five times and spooned enough male patients to be ousted from three elderly care facilities. She also has Alzheimer’s, which is why she wants to spend her remaining months or years surrounded by memories at her family’s decrepit old plantation in Louisiana with her only daughter.
Lou Ann, a.k.a. Lulu the Love Guru, has built an empire preaching sex, love, and relationship advice to the women of America—mostly by defying the example her mother has set for her. But with her mother suddenly in need of a fulltime caretaker, Lou Ann reluctantly agrees to step out of the spotlight and indulge her mother’s wishes, even if it means trading in her Louboutins and Chanel No. 5 for boots and mosquito repellant.
Upon arrival at Sutton Hall, Lou Ann discovers that very little functions at it should, least of all her mother’s mind. She is haunted not only by creaky floorboards and things that go bump in the night, but also by the living ghost sleeping downstairs. Every good day Patricia and Lou Ann have treasure hunting in the attic seems to be followed by two days of meltdowns and cold shoulders. And as Lou Ann adjusts to this new and inevitably temporary dynamic, she is forced to confront the fact that her mother’s fate is completely out of her hands—and the end may be coming quicker than she even thought possible.
**NOTE: Lest anyone think I am being sarcastic/insensitive/etc. throughout this review, please know, I lost my beloved grandmother to complications from Alzheimer’s Disease.**
Lou Ann Hunter has her hands full. She is the face/words/life behind Lulu the Love Guru, she travels the world supporting her brand, she is hands on as the head of her company, and she is constantly worried over her mother, Patricia, an Alzheimer’s patient living in a care facility. With a thousand things to do each day, Lulu doesn’t really have time for a bump in the road.
Then the phone call comes . . . .
Patricia still has a lot of moments of lucidity, but the other moments are the real problem. Patricia is on her third or fourth care facility and that facility is kicking her out. Apparently, Patricia and her passionate nature have gone one step too far and she’s being kicked to the curb and into the hands of her totally over-worked and under-prepared daughter, Lulu. Lulu has no idea how to properly care for her mother, but she does have a phone and considerable resources. First up, get her mother settled into her new room in Lulu’s elegant home. Second up, putting her upcoming tour dates on permanent hold. Third up, find an in-home nurse willing and capable of taking on Patricia. Fourth up and finally, try not to lose her mind.
It takes Lulu less than 24 hours to understand how out of her depth she really is and how desperately she needs help. As luck would have it, Lulu finds a young, capable nurse willing to pack her bags and move in with Lulu and Patricia. In Lulu’s mind, they will all muddle through in her luxury home, in Patricia’s mind, they will all pack their bags and move to her ancestral home, Sutton Hall, in Louisiana. It seems Lulu’s luck ran out finding the perfect nurse because within a week, the trio is packing their bags and heading to Louisiana.
If Lulu had ever tried to imagine her personal Hell, it would likely be Sutton Hall in Louisiana. From front to back, top to bottom, Sutton Hall is the very definition of a money pit. While Lulu sees nothing but dollar signs, her mother sees the place she has longed for and the place she intends to spend the remainder of her days. Ever the proactive being, Lulu sets about getting her mother comfortable and getting contractors and repairmen lined up to make Sutton Hall habitable. The task is a big one, but Lulu has made the decision to do whatever it takes to make her mother happy and whatever time she has left the best it can possibly be given her circumstances.
As the days pass by, Lulu, Patricia, and their trusty nurse fall into a routine that leaves Lulu exhausted and pulling further and further away from her company. She has determined to spend time with her mother and appreciate every second they have left together. Some days are wonderful with laughter, lucidity, and good times, while other days are filled with anger, hatred, and emotional upheavals. Those days, the really bad days remind Lulu of what she is losing and more importantly, what her mother is losing. Lulu cherishes her time with her mother even when she is being berated; the good times outweigh the bad and Lulu is stronger than even she knows.
The Bottom Line: I am absolutely dumbfounded by the Goodreads star rating for this book! Rachel Gibson has taken a topic, an illness that it utterly terrifying and humanized it in such a way that I was absolutely blown away. There are so many moments in this book that broke my heart, made me cry, and completely renewed my faith in humanity. There are moments that are laugh out loud funny, exhausting, tragic, ridiculous, and beautiful. That, dear reader, is the reality of Alzheimer’s and what it does to both the patient and the family. To say I loved this book is a weird thing, but I did, and I think it is because of my own family’s experience with this devastating illness. Gibson offers a story that is filled with compassion, sensitivity, sarcasm, humor, and love and I found it to be entirely engrossing.