Reviews

Publishers Weekly
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The unnamed narrator of this beautifully controlled, immensely affecting novel, is a home care aid who helps those afflicted with AIDS. In a series of brief chapters written in casually vernacular language, Brown depicts this woman's visits to a varied group of victims, including young gay men, an elderly widow infected through a blood transfusion and a fellow volunteer. The narrator brings to them the gifts of tender care, compassion and respect. They in turn give her the gifts of insight, openness and intimacy; they teach her about dignity and courage. She observes the inexorability of their decline: young men prematurely moribund, ``like a bunch of 95-year-olds watching their generation die.'' She understands the ironies: the anxious wait for a room at a hospice and the realization that ``when you actually got it, it was like getting your [death] sentence.'' As one by one her clients die, her deliberate emotional distancing gives way to the pain of loss; she realizes that for the victims of this plague, the gift of mercy is the gift of death, and that the final gift is the gift of mourning. Brown (The Children's Crusade) brings off her difficult task with assured sensitivity. Deceptively simple, the narrative grows in power, establishing a strong bond of empathy in the reader and conveying the visceral impact of a shared emotional experience. Author tour. (Oct.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved