CM . . . .
Volume VII Number 6 . . . . November 17, 2000
"Maria, it's Penny. Michael's very sick. There's a bad smell coming from his room. He kept the TV set on all night, and he's not answering when I knock on his bedroom door. I think that you'd better come down.Terminal illness is an emotionally grueling experience both for patients and family members. In Not a Total Waste, B. M. Lloyd (a pseudonym) details the experience of her son's death from AIDS. Michael Lloyd was only 33 at the time of his death, but the sequence of AIDS is several life-times' worth of suffering pain and indignity. Caregivers, such as Maria and Michael's wide circle of friends, also suffer from exhaustion, frustration with the situation and the medical establishment, burn-out from the incessant demands of coping with a terminally-ill son or friend. Lloyd spares no details of her son's physical decline into terrible dependency and frailty; in fact, the graphic descriptions of incontinence can be overwhelming. Maria Lloyd is a woman of decided courage, and her book is commendably free of bitterness. It is difficult to criticize a book dealing with such a painful subject, but Not a Total Waste was not easy to read, and not just because of the subject matter. Simply put, the book needs editing. There is simply too much descriptive detail and the dialogue often lacks authenticity: people do not always speak in complete sentences, and no one ever swears in this book. While I wouldn't characterize the writing style as "academic," it isn't always reader-friendly, either. Following the actual story itself is a listing of tables of statistics about AIDS, music sources, organizations and support groups, a glossary, a listing of tasks to be completed after an individual's death. All this information is undoubtedly worthwhile, but I question the need to include all of it.
Not a Total Waste is not a total waste of effort; it will speak to anyone who has experienced the slow pain of watching a beloved family member or friend succumb to terminal illness. It certainly makes real the consequences of contracting AIDS and the necessity both of responsible sexual behaviour and of research into a cure for this terrifying disease. Because of the subject matter, I would suggest that it be read before making an acquisition decision. Its best placement would be in a senior high school library, although I am not certain that many high school readers would persevere in reading it.
Recommended with Reservations.
Joanne Peters is a teacher-librarian at Kelvin High School in Winnipeg, MB..
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Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.