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William Baldwin's life is a mess, and now his mother has asked him to help her die. He dropped out of medical school when he couldn't come to terms with death and the idea that medicine sometimes causes irreparable consequences. His mother's illness brings up old questions that William must now answer. Frances Baldwin is a feisty, fierce and funny septuagenarian with a life-long dream of a good death—a death that comes naturally, without intervention from the medical community. Prepared to deny further medical ...
William Baldwin's life is a mess, and now his mother has asked him to help her die. He dropped out of medical school when he couldn't come to terms with death and the idea that medicine sometimes causes irreparable consequences. His mother's illness brings up old questions that William must now answer. Frances Baldwin is a feisty, fierce and funny septuagenarian with a life-long dream of a good death—a death that comes naturally, without intervention from the medical community. Prepared to deny further medical care for her heart and lung conditions, she wants to bring closure to a well-lived life and seek the heaven that her faith promises her. But first, she must battle the family and the medical system that struggle to keep her alive at all costs. Giving in to their arguments at first, she consents to surgery. The operation is a success, but a series of complications develop, requiring consent to additional treatment. When her choices become clear, the family drama escalates. Frances has her reasons for dying; the deterioration of her body is only part of her readiness. Her spirit has been on its own trajectory for years, and she no longer feels connected to the physical world. She asks William to get her affairs in order and convince the family and the doctors to let her go. Through the weeks, William comes to terms with his mother's decision by studying and analyzing the concept of death through the eyes of different cultures and religions. All the time, he looks for signs that he is doing the right thing. He faces many legal and ethical issues as he tries to implement his mother's wishes for her end-of-life care. In the process, he grows closer to her and resolves his own issues of attachment and dependency. The focus of the story is not on what was lost, but rather what was found in Frances' death. Readers will consider death's legal implications and right-of-choice as the key issues in Finding Frances. Some readers will also see Frances' natural death as the ultimate demonstration of her beliefs as she goes with open arms into the next realm. Finding Frances is a novel based on actual events.
Posted June 5, 2011
Frances has led her life; raising three children and providing a partnership with her husband, Bill. Now in her seventies, she finds herself in deteriorating health with COPD and heart issues. Frances has always been determined to end her life on her own terms. She nursed her father through a long painful death and does not want to either go through that or put her family through the experience of watching her die inch by inch.
The children, long scattered, come home when Frances is hospitalized. She is determined to have no surgery or treatments. William is the eldest son and the middle child. He was to have been the doctor, but stopped his medical training short of that goal due to his disagreements with Western medicine. Sugar, the oldest child, has remained physically close to her parents, and sees her mother's condition realistically. Randy, the youngest, is an environmental lawyer who has checked out from the family emotionally years ago. Frances' husband, Bill, is determined to do whatever it takes to keep Frances with him for as long as he can.
Frances agrees to have treatment when she finds out that her insurance will pay for treatment but not for hospice care if she does nothing and takes a while to die. She gets through the initial treatment and she and her family must make decisions about life and death going forward from that point. Who should be the final decider? Should it be the individual involved? Should spouses and children have a say? How involved in research and questioning the medical establishment should the family be? Van Dyck wraps her novel around these questions.
This book is recommended for readers who are facing this question, or know that they will in the future, and for anyone interested in ethical dilemmas and how best to solve them. The characters are written to portray all the sides of the issue, and the reader is led through their decision processes, hesitations and questions. This is a common issue and one that can heal or tear a family apart. Van Dyck has written a courageous book that can help readers make the painful decisions necessary.
Posted August 29, 2010
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.
Posted August 25, 2010
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.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted April 22, 2010
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.