The author, a former editor at the New York Times , was about to leave Manhattan to live in rural upstate New York when, in late summer of 1985, her brother, a doctor, told her that their mother had pancreatic cancer. During the following year, Schreiber, 40 years old and divorced, kept a journal, charting the changing conditions of her daily life as she moved into an old house in Ancram and came to accept what she calls ``a second weaning'' from her much-loved mother. Between visits to her parents in Minnesota, Schreiber responds to the beauty of her new surroundings, but even in the woods, blissfully absorbed in the demands of trout fishing, she is never beyond the powerful current of her mother's terminal illness. The solace of her solitary moments outdoors contrasts sharply with her anger at her mother's specialized, mostly indifferent doctors: ``Why must medicine feel so much like a hit-and-run accident?'' Humor and periods of joy leaven the account. There is grace in one evening's gossipy mother-daughter chat, even as other times, increasingly demeaning for the older woman, are made terrible by pain and indignity. Despite the inevitability of the outcome and the universal natureto avoid rhyme/mc of the experiences described, these closely focused journal entries--potent distillations of sorrow, frustration and exhaustion--develop a powerful narrative impetus. Striding through backwoods and nature centers, Schreiber is a figure like Fenimore Cooper's Natty Bumpo, an alert, clear-eyed guide in the wilderness of grief, where vision is blurred and damp. 25,000 first printing. (Jan.)
At 40, journalist Schreiber ( Time and the New York Times ) decided to abandon the urban fast track and leave behind her career. The same season in which she began house hunting in the rural Catskills, her mother was diagnosed as having pancreatic cancer. The introductory claim that Schreiber's ``journal takes you toward death as certainly as a nineteenth century British novel takes you toward marriage'' must be understood as referring to the very best of such novels. A dutiful, frightened, sensitive, alert, and insightful daughter, Schreiber balances her own and her family's experiences of her mother's medical death sentence with a parallel account of her search for spiritual rebirth in the country. Schreiber proved an energetic, inquisitive, and intelligent homesteader, and her engrossing journal never waivers into the maudlin. Highly recommended.-- Francisca Goldsmith, Berkeley P.L., Cal.