The Moon in the Water: Reflections on an Aging Parent

Overview


Named a Best Book of 2008 by Library Journal

In a series of moving vignettes, the author begins by describing a particular representation of Water-Moon Kuan Yin, a Buddhist teacher and goddess associated with compassion, who often sits on a precarious overhang or floats on a flimsy petal. Then Kuan Yin steps out of the frame to join the author in the mundane challenges of caring for her father-transferring his health insurance, struggling with a wheelchair van, managing adult ...

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Overview


Named a Best Book of 2008 by Library Journal

In a series of moving vignettes, the author begins by describing a particular representation of Water-Moon Kuan Yin, a Buddhist teacher and goddess associated with compassion, who often sits on a precarious overhang or floats on a flimsy petal. Then Kuan Yin steps out of the frame to join the author in the mundane challenges of caring for her father-transferring his health insurance, struggling with a wheelchair van, managing adult diapers, or playing in the fictions of dementia. From perplexed to poignant to funny, the vignettes record the working-class English of a fading but still wise dad, and they find other human versions of Kuan Yin in a doctor who will still make house calls or kind strangers in the street.

The book includes ten illustrations: both classical representations of Kuan Yin and also the author's own drawings, which adapt Kuan Yin in an act of practical spirituality, reading art through life and life through art. Each vignette invites the harried caregiver to take a deep breath and meditate on the trials and joys of caring for an aging parent.

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Editorial Reviews

Doody's Review Service
Reviewer: Lori L. Popejoy, PhD, APRN, BC (University of Missouri-Columbia)
Description: This is a book of vignettes about a father who must move in with his daughter. Using the Buddhist art painting of Water-Moon Kuan Yin, the author paints a picture with words about the common occurrence of taking care of an aging parent.
Purpose: The book invites caregivers to reflect on both the challenges and joys associated with the caregiving experience. This is a lovely representation of the experience, and more than meets the stated objectives.
Audience: Written for the general public, this book would be useful in a class about aging. It strikes at the heart and soul of caregiving.
Features: It covers the common events associated with the day-to-day life of a caregiver, moving a parent to another state, finding physicians and medical care, and personal care. The use of the metaphor of Water-Moon is beautifully done.
Assessment: This well-written book can be used by people to reflect on their own situations, and by teachers to help students think about the challenges of caregiving.
From the Publisher

...a story of a father and a daughter who give each other moments of great grace and beauty. It is a story told with the utmost care and love.
--Honolulu Weekly

Named a "Best Book of 2008" by Library Journal (Spiritual Living)

The Moon in the Water invites people in to the spiritual and practical dimensions of care-giving, especially to elderly parents. . . . This book is a welcome balm to those who seek sustenance on their own healing journey of caring.
Paula Arai, author of Women Living Zen: Japanese Soto Buddhist Nuns

Phillips spins an evocative account of the continual anguish punctuated by moments of wry humor and sublime love that characterize care for an aging parent. We walk with her through her five year-journey of caring for her ailing father, witnessing both the mind-numbing struggles of coping with a broken elder care system and the moments of grace in the unexpected generosity of friends and paid caregivers. Her father's dignity while dying by inches leaps from the page. This book will be a must-read both for my classes on Families and on Aging.
--Cameron L. Macdonald, University of Wisconsin, Madison

Library Journal

Like most really fine books, Phillips's Moon in the Water almost defies description-it is at once a memoir, a meditation on parenting a parent, art history, comedy, and poetry. Phillips begins each chapter with a description of or reflection on a real "Water-Moon" Kuan Yin painting, a genre that shows the East's favorite Boddhisattva of compassion looking into the water, waiting for the moon's reflection; she uses each painting and her own frequently hilarious take on it as a springboard for a vignette about the life she shared with her father as he approached old age and finally death. By turns witty, compassionate, wise, and intensely personal, Phillips's book is perfect for our "sandwich generation," facing the care of elderly parents and trying to continue spiritual journeys even in the face of the end. Included is a list of sources for the paintings reproduced or mentioned. Highly recommended. [See Q&A with author, p. 48.]


—Graham Christian
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780826515865
  • Publisher: Vanderbilt University Press
  • Publication date: 4/28/2008
  • Pages: 160
  • Product dimensions: 6.10 (w) x 8.10 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author


Kathy J. Phillips is Professor of English at the University of Hawai'i. Her most recent books are Manipulating Masculinity: War and Gender in Modern British and American Literature; This Isn't a Picture I'm Holding: Kuan Yin; and Virginia Woolf Against Empire.
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