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Finding Frances

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  • Posted August 29, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    The Spectrum of Living

    Janice Van Dyck, the author of FINDING FRANCES, approaches this task of dealing with a family's struggle with the issue of conflicting decisions about death and dying with a strong background of gifts: she is an executive coach and communications specialist, has a fine first novel ('The O'Malley Trilogy') under her belt, and most important, she is writing from her own experience with the topic at hand. This novel is a biographical examination of how the author's family coped with the issues of a dying parent. It is a well-written, balanced discussion from all aspects about choices made about the time of death, fast paced novel that carries a mighty wallop - an introduction for all of us to meditate on the aspects the novel explores about an individual's participation in that 'final event'.

    Frances is in her mid-seventies, has been a life long smoker, and now faces the diagnosis of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease - or emphysema - and the strains that disease places on all organ systems of the body. She is married to an emotionally ill-equipped Bill, and is mother to William, a medical school dropout married to a dermatologist, to Randy who left home after high school unable to cope with the lack of love for his parents and became a lawyer, and to Cynthia ('Sugar') who is divorced and somewhat rigid in her approach to change. Frances develops complications form her disease, decides she is unwilling to live a life supported by machines, and has elected to dimply die: she is ready mentally and spiritually. An acute problem results in a hospitalization with concomitant surgeries and defibrillation episodes and her family gathers round: old animosities and gaps in communication surface and there is considerable discussion about Frances' decision to discontinue living. Terms such as assisted suicide, hospice care, hardened medical advice, insurance inadequacies in understanding the life cycle all arise an it falls to William, the one who never wanted to become involved in life and death situations or the agonies of being a doctor, is the chosen one to support Frances' wishes. Each of the family members as well as each of the hospital personnel represent the multiple facets of coming to intelligent decisions about the right to die and the right to human dignity. With seamless empathy Van Dyck encourages the reader to hear all aspects of the sticky topic and finds a way to have the story end on a positive note.

    Many books about the end of life have been written -both inspiring and boring - and Janice Van Dyck has made the wise decision to write a novel based on fact that is immensely readable and warmly understanding.
    Grady Harp

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  • Posted August 25, 2010

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    Bridget's Review

    You will be changed after reading this. It's emotionally exhausting but with this topic, it has to be. It's a heavy load and you can't pick this book up and think you're going to be able to get through it without a lot of deep thought. It's a great book and I'm really glad I read it.

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  • Posted April 22, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    An incredible story. A six hanky reading experience

    Suffering from Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease that makes breathing difficult, Frances is ready to join God. When her latest attack occurs, she lies down calmly waiting for God to embrace her and does not call her spouse Bill who remains in denial and would call 911. However, when death fails to come right away and the pain turns excruciating, she manages to get Bill to call 911.

    Frances needs emergency surgery to remove the infarcted bowel, but though she prefers to say no intrusive operation, she needs professional care that will be covered by insurance at the hospital but not at home. Frances pleads with her son William to allow her to die although she knows her husband and her other children will refuse. When the operation fails, her doctor wants a second try, but Frances says enough; she chooses a death with dignity decision opting for hospice care rather than hospital treatment, but her family wants her to reconsider.

    Avoiding melodrama, Finding Frances is a great family drama that looks deeply at the impact on everyone when a loved one is dying. Frances is the most adjusted due to her belief in the afterlife; her husband and three adult children cannot let her leave them without fighting for her to keep trying. Making a strong case for end of life counseling for a family, readers will appreciate Janice M. Van Dyck's insightful drama; as spending time with Frances and her family provides a profound timely look at dying.

    Harriet Klausner

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