Her first two travelogues (French Milk and An Age of License) were explorations of her own maturation as she saw different parts of the world, but this one is on a whole other level. Her grandparents Allen and Phyllis are 93 and 90 years old respectively, and have signed up to go on a Caribbean cruise with a group from their assisted living facility. They weren’t big travelers when they were young and mobile, so this decision perplexes their family. Not to mention both of them aren’t capable of handling daily living by themselves, let alone a stressful trip in strange surroundings. None of their children can make it on the cruise, so Lucy volunteers to accompany them as their caregiver on their week long vacation.
What follows is an account of Lucy’s frustrations, fears, anger and sadness as she’s confronted head on with just how in decline her grandparents (whom she calls her grands) are. Her grandfather is still mostly there mentally, but is severely physically limited, and her grandmother has dementia. Both retired schoolteachers, they have been married for sixty-seven years. Lucy channels her frustrations and loneliness at caring for them in a setting where you’re meant to be with family or partners. Her grandmother in particular is challenging because she was extremely stern and emotionally reserved even when she was healthy, and now her fading memory means she experiences setbacks all the time that are just aggravated by being in a place she isn’t familiar with.
Amidst all this new scenery as she cares for them, she takes the opportunity to reflect on her relationship with her own parents, what her father’s relationship with his parents must have been like (the grands in this book), and her own mortality. Sandwiched in between all of that, she ends every chapter (which each cover a day in the trip) with an illustrated excerpt of her grandfather’s WWII memoir. The contrast between the stories he tells of his time in the Air Force as a young man really put into new perspective his current day life.
As for the art itself, it’s her best yet. The deceivingly simple style that she favors is perfect for capturing the devastation (and the beauty and humor and joy) of all the smaller moments in life. Her use of line and color is just perfect. It is quite simply a beautiful book in every way you can think of, and I’m so glad I read it.