Palliative care, cross-country moves, and whiskey in a Mason jar: Ariel Gore’s “The End of Eve”

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The aging population means that more and more Americans will be taking care of ill and disabled relatives. A relative in palliative care is a reality that many of us will face. Sometimes, our relationship with that relative is a difficult one even in the best of health.

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Ariel Gore’s memoir, The End of Eve, describes the complicated role of caretaker thrust upon her when her mother Eve is diagnosed with terminal cancer. Their relationship has been fraught with emotional manipulation and abuse since Ariel’s childhood. Now that she’s dying, Ariel has to confront their relationship whether she’s ready to or not — and she has to move across the country to do it.

Three cab companies in Portland have banned Eve because she’s offended them (she’s eventually booted from hospice care, too). As a writer, Ariel has offended her mother more than once when writing about their relationship. Eve has tattooed eyeliner; Ariel has tattoo sleeves. When Eve announces that she has a year to live, Ariel can’t help but feel ambivalent. “I’ve met your mother,” Ariel’s friend reminds her: “She’s a narcissist. Narcissists take a long time to die.”

She writes about her children (“one kid in college and another in the crib”), her relationship (“Sol isn’t like a partner, she’s the roommate from hell who doesn’t even pay the rent”), and her family and childhood, all with an incredibly honest and genuine voice — made more urgent by her mother’s stage IV cancer diagnosis. The memoir explores all the complex and at times contradictory emotions that make up relationships — love, anger, jealousy, joy, hopelessness. The prose is tender and candid, and very often darkly funny.

Ariel Gore, photographed by Ana June
Ariel Gore, photographed by Ana June

Gore runs a magazine called Hip Mama that recently came under fire for featuring a woman breastfeeding topless on the cover (imagine that!). Her championing of alternative, counter-culture life puts her in line with a lot of Homies’ values, too. What’s more, the book explores searching for belonging and happiness in one’s own individuality — sentiments to which many of us can relate.

Do you ever play that game ‘What if I lived here’? You’re just driving through some bright city or rain-washed town. What if I lived here? What if I lived in that pink trailer off the interstate? Or in that little brick house near the university? What if I lived in that giant glass spaceship of a building that clings to the Pacific sea cliff? In that apartment with the picture window and the fire escape? In that ugly development at the state border? In that purple houseboat? Or here?

We search for home — for the life that we want, the family we make, where we plant roots — and we could find different iterations of that throughout life. What The End of Eve explores is the idea that even with our searching, our building, and our choices, sometimes Life Happens, and things change. The epigraph of the novel is a quote from Rainer Maria Rilke: “Let everything happen to you: beauty and terror. Just keep going. No feeling is final.” Ariel Gore’s memoir describes the beauty alongside the terror of this chapter of her life, and indeed, life in general.

Let us know what you thought of the book and what you could relate to in the comments.

Comments on Palliative care, cross-country moves, and whiskey in a Mason jar: Ariel Gore’s “The End of Eve”

  1. So many thoughts.

    My grandmother is currently on hospice, and she is a huge narcissist (though maybe not quite as extreme as the one in this book). I need to tell my mom about this book.

    Was there a book club announcement that I’ve missed? I haven’t read this book, but can we please have more book-related discussions on here and/or book review-ish posts?

    Yesterday I read an interesting news article about lack of access to palliative care in some developing countries. I’m not usually one to bemoan the difficulties of other countries because they are always complex and more than can be addressed in one article or one cry for help. But this situation really struck me, perhaps because my grandmother is receiving palliative care (in the US) right now.

    • Hi Maryr! There was no book club announcement, I just thought that this would be a book that might appeal to Homies!

      Given your response and the others below, maybe book club would be a good idea…

      • Yes please! Insatiable reader over here. While I never run out of things to read sometimes it is great to read something I wouldn’t have found on my own. That is how I started reading about urban homesteading and now I have a stack of books on that subject and happily ever after plans of a planned intentional community. You never know what will happen when you introduce someone to a new book.

  2. just wanted to second/third the thought of an OBH “book club”. I’d love to read the reviews, and I would probably even participate in the comments! (If I had managed to read the book in time.)

  3. I need to get this. So many palliative care books/articles that my mother looked up for her palliative care course were rather religious/Christian-centric, so it’d be good to have something from someone closer to my values with her no-bones voice writing from experience.

    Thanks for finding it and sharing a review.

  4. I haven’t read The End of Eve, and i’m not sure i’m ready to yet.

    My father passed in January 2014, after a 6 year battle with lung disease and the early stages of Parkinson’s. It was complicated, and epic, and in some ways continues to be. My relationship with my dad wasn’t bad, and while I wouldn’t have called him narcissistic, he was a salesman, and a fervent advocate for what he thought he needed. He was emotionally manipulative, but thankfully for me, the rest of the lessons and traits he bestowed upon me, made me just as ruthless and self-advocating.

    I spent a long year and a half prior to his death in therapy, figuring out all the mixed emotions, reactions, and bad habits we’d developed over the years. It was hard, but I loved my dad, and I didn’t want to be an angry person, and I didn’t want to leave any unfinished business. A slow decline is a terrible thing to watch, but I am grateful for the time we had to get things right. I have had too many friends lose parents to sudden, advanced cancer, suicide, and accidents. Those friends didn’t have the time I had. I am glad I had time to deal with one of the most stubborn, ridiculous, and wonderful men I have ever been loved by.

    My dad got sick at a time when I was living relatively close to home (4 hours drive), and so I didn’t have to make a move across the country or the world to be with him. But I also couldn’t bring myself to follow my dreams and move to another country while he was sick, knowing that he wouldn’t be sick forever. Eventually he would die. And that was hard, because there were some days when i thought the man might live on the edge of death, a fraction of his former self, forever. He was that stubborn after all. But now that he has passed, a freedom has crept back into my life planning, almost unconsciously, and living abroad is back on the radar. It is really hard not to resent ailing family members for the ways they imposition our lives.

    When I wrote to my therapist a year after our last meeting, to tell her that my dad had passed, it was with immense gratitude that she had helped me get to a place of peace early enough to really enjoy the last months with my dad.

    As always, thanks for keepin’ it real, Homies.

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