because bibliophiles require refreshment

Between the Sheets by Molly O’Keefe

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Between the Sheets was recommended to me by a social worker friend a few months ago. We were talking about how diseases which affect the elderly are rarely written about in romance novels, because so few of them deal with that population. She explained she was at a conference on alternative methods of care for care-givers of elderly parents and some recommended this book. She picked it up immediately and then passed it on to me.

The cover and title of this one are misleading – it’s much better than either one would suggest. Our hero would not be that manscaped.

The heroine in Between the Sheets is Shelby, an art instructor in a small town in Arkansas. Her life is incredibly ordered and structured, though not because of her own desires. She lives with and cares for her mother, who is in advancing stages of Alzheimers. The focus on routine is due to the disease – patients with advancing Alzheimers and dementia both need as many fixed points in their lives as possible. They need all their clothes to be in the same space, meals to come at the same time every day, etc. Since their brains have become locations of spontaneity, their world must become a place of stasis.

For anyone who has ever cared for a relative with one of these diseases, they know it is soul sucking. The person you love is there one minute and gone the next, lost in the ravages of a disease we know so little about and for which there is no cure. However, to complain about the work required seems selfish and unloving and there is a great hesitancy to surrender to external help. This is especially true if the person suffering from the disease was a caring and generous parent to the caregiver.

O’Keefe wraps up all these realities in Shelby so perfectly I nearly wept.

On another parallel is the story with Ty and his son. Their slow relationship (Ty was unaware of the boy for a portion of his life) is done so well and I absolutely found myself cheering them on as they learned each other. Bonus for me as well is that even though Ty is a ‘rough and tumble’ kind of fellow – fixing motorcycles, playing football, etc – his son’s passion is art and Ty treats that with the grace and holiness the passion of anyone’s child deserves.

If I ever taught a class that included dimensions of treating Alzheimers or dementia, I would most likely add this book to a “recommended novels” list to help my students flesh out better what it could mean to be the daughter of someone who was – quite literally – loosing their very selves.

The drink with this one is either iced tea or whiskey – both are sippable on a front porch with an autumnal breeze and that is exactly what this book deserves.

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Further Reading:

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I received a copy of this book from a friend and then passed it onto a colleague who teaches classes in social work in hopes she’d find it as insightful as I did .

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