I’m old enough to wish I could forget certain parts of my life. Old enough to mourn certain losses, to mourn the passing of unfulfilled dreams, and to mourn the inevitable disappointments of life. But what if the erasure of a person’s life is not due to avoidance but to a failing memory? Such is the case in Linda MacKillop’s thought-provoking debut novel, The Forgotten Life of Eva Gordon, which is coming out this week.
Seventy-five and struggling with dementia, Eva Gordon wants to escape from the care of her granddaughter, Breezy, and return to her former life in Cape Cod. Throughout the story, she slowly reveals the losses and broken relationships that have led her to a bitter, lonely life. When Breezy gets married, she and her husband, Ian, invite Eva to stay with them at Try Again Farm. Not everything goes well, but through the events that unfold, Eva begins to make peace with her past and accept her new life while letting go of the things she can no longer stand.
MacKillop, who lives outside Chicago but spent time in New England, said the inspiration for the novel came from knowing difficult people and wanting to explore how some people can be difficult and abrasive, but also vulnerable and lovable. “I also wanted to look at the reasons why people push other people away with their behavior,” she said. “What in their history made them do this? It gives us compassion for even difficult people if we can understand someone’s behavior in the light of their background history.”
The book, published by Kregel, emphasizes the dignity and need for autonomy of a person who is no longer able to live independently, while emphasizing the importance of intergenerational relationships. MacKillop said she chose to write about an older character because of how close she was to her own grandparents, who played a major role in her life. People who are older need younger people in their lives, she said. And those who are young need older people.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Maine ranks first in the country for the highest percentage of adults 65 and older, which is one of the reasons I enjoy living here. I cherish the stories, experiences, and wisdom of those who have lived before me, such as Hildegard, the retired preschool teacher who marched up my steps when my children were all young to look past the largest basket of Lincoln Logs I have ever had. set. And Joan, who wrapped her arms around me when I lost my own mother and has not let go since. And Josephine, my husband’s grandmother, who always had the freezer full of ice cream for my kids.
“I will be your God all your life,” the psalmist writes of God (Psalm 46: 4), “until your hair is white with age. I have created you and I will take care of you. I will carry you with and save you.”
One way God shows His care for older individuals is through us. As MacKillop’s book gently shows, we all need each other.
Meadow Rue Merrill, author of the award-winning memoir “Redeeming Ruth,” writes from a small house in the great woods of Midcoast Maine. She is also the author of the children’s picture book “The Best Birthday” and four other books that celebrate the holiday with activities that build children’s faith. Connect at meadowrue.com.