You wouldn’t think, necessarily, that a book about a son, visiting his father in his 90s, to take care of him, to give his brother a break from caring duties, and finally to say goodbye, would be a page-turner. But it is. Around these visits, Ilsley lets a larger story unfold, about families and secrets, about a complex relationship between father and son, about the mysteries of ageing, memory and affection.
It is a palimpsest, a story about eccentric people with tales unique to them layered on top of a universal narrative of family and the ways we care and do not care for each other. Like all good writing, it will reach out and prod you to think of similarities in your life and I’d think this book would be especially poignant to anyone with an ageing parent, who has said goodbye to a parent, and anyone (is this most of us?) who have family members or loved ones who are particularly stubborn.
The Home Stretch is touching but it is also very, very funny. Humour is not a shield nor affectation; it is an observation of life’s absurdities and also part and parcel of the whole puzzle: sadness and frustration and resentment and care and laughter all gaffer-taped together. The joke made of his father’s passion kept giving and giving: I was surprised that it got funnier and funnier.
I hope this honest, funny and beautifully written book finds a wide audience. I recommend it highly.