Saturday, April 29, 2017

I Like You Just Fine When You're Not Around by Ann Garvin

My friend Mad loaned me her copy of this novel, otherwise I would have missed it completely.  It took me awhile to get around to reading it, but it is a quick read once you start.  It is funny, sad, and captures the stress of trying to take care of an aging parent while still attempting to have a life.

Tig Monahan is a woman in the middle of a whole lot of change.  Her job as a therapist is ending, her boyfriend Pete is moving to Hawaii and expects Tig to come along with him; her mother Hallie is suffering from dementia and has just been moved to a nursing home.  Tig is unhappy, and the world is moving way too fast for her to cope. 

It's especially hard for Tig to reconcile the woman her mother is now with the woman she used to be.  A successful veterinarian with her own practice; a single mother bringing up two girls after her husband's unexpected death.  A take charge, no fear kind of lady.  But that's all gone now; Hallie is lost in her memories and sometimes can't even recognize Tig.  Wendy, Tig's older sister, lives away from her sister and mother, but comes home unexpectedly with a surprise:  she's very pregnant and a bit lost herself.  Giving birth to Clementine, Wendy can't cope at all with a colicky baby, postpartum depression, and her feelings of inadequacy.  She takes off, leaving Tig to take care of Clementine and Hallie.  Garvin perfectly captures the hardships of being a sandwich generation adult; coping with elderly parents and children and trying to have a life of your own.

 It's a huge juggling act, and Tig struggles.  Her relationship with Pete is still up in the air, but there's Alec, a cute widower who's mother is a sassy resident at the nursing home. There's also her stint as a radio show host for a call in therapy show.  It's growing in popularity, but Tig feels like a fraud.  

I enjoyed this novel; there were certainly parts that had me teary-eyed and nodding my head in agreement.  My experience with my mother, who had dementia and health issues that lead to her death in December 2015 had some similarities to Tig's experience.  It is heartbreaking to realize the parent you knew is no longer the person in front of you; that they sometimes don't recognize you, and revert back to people and places that are far back in time.  There were many times I left my Mom's apartment in tears.  Taking care of a parent is a huge struggle, and it can create issues between siblings you never thought would ever happen.  It forces you to look at life differently, and think about your own mortality.  

I liked Tig; she annoyed me occasionally, but overall I could understand her motives.  It seems when your life is chaotic, the most change happens and propels you forward whether you're ready or not.  That certainly happens to Tig.  I also enjoyed seeing the change in her relationship with Wendy from one of anger and resentment to one of friendship and solidarity.  Tig has a rocky road, but plenty of people around her who support her and push her forward.  

Rating:  4/6 for an entertaining, touching, and wise look at life's beginnings and endings and all the stuff in between.  

Available in paperback and ebook. 


  1. Ah life. Especially for women, coping with others' needs while trying to have a life of one's own. Sorry to hear about your mom. I had a similar experience with my mom but she succumbed to a couple big strokes. I wonder who will be there for us when we get to that part of life.

  2. Hi Sue, oooh, a goodie. Please bring this over to Books You Loved: May. Cheers from Carole's Chatter