Literature Annotations


Brown, Rebecca
The Gifts of the Body


Genre Collection (Short Stories) (165 pp.)
KeywordsAIDS, Caregivers, Catastrophe, Cross-Cultural Issues, Death and Dying, Depression, Disease and Health, Empathy, Epidemics, Grief, Human Worth, Lesbian/Gay/Bisexual/Transgender Issues, Loneliness, Love, Mourning, Patient Experience, Poverty, Public Health, Sexuality, Suffering
Summary

The narrator in each of the stories in this unusual collection is a home-care worker who helps people with AIDS. Each story focuses on a "gift," i.e. "The Gift of Sweat"; "The Gift of Tears"; "The Gift of Mobility" and so on. In each, we see scenes in the weeks or months shared by caregiver and patient. The patients vary widely in age, life situation, stage of illness, and attitude toward both the illness and the caregiver.

The caregiver/narrator also changes somewhat from one story to another, giving the reader some sense of the different stresses and rewards that come in the course of such work. The details of caregiving are elaborated in ways that are sometimes mundane, sometimes surprising, sometimes funny, sometimes harsh, often touching, and always straightforward.

Commentary

This book is a wonderful read, especially for anyone interested in doing either professional or volunteer home care. The writer's clarity, simplicity of style, and evident empathy for the complexities of both giving and receiving care distinguish it among a host of literature focused on AIDS. Each story is a little gem, and a testimony to the need for and satisfactions of visiting the sick.

PublisherHarper Perennial
Edition1994
Place PublishedNew York
Annotated by McEntyre, Marilyn Chandler
Date of Entry 09/18/01
Last Revised 12/14/06