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.
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.
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.