Friday, April 28, 2017

Home Is Burning by Dan Marshall

Sometimes life can throw some really horrible things at you with no warning whatsoever.  Dan Marshall knows this better than most.  Although his mother had been diagnosed with cancer a few years before, she was successfully beating it and life had resumed to somewhat normal.  Dan, a recent college graduate, was living the dream in Los Angeles with a great job and a beautiful girlfriend.  His twenties were shaping up to be the best years of his life.

Then, out of nowhere, his extremely fit and health conscious father was diagnosed with ALS, or Lou Gehrig’s disease.  And by the way, his mother’s cancer has taken a turn for the worse.  At first, Dan did what most self-absorbed young adults would do:  he blissfully pretended that everything would turn out ok. However, as his mother’s phone calls became more urgent, and his guilt grew exponentially, he knew that he had to leave his California paradise and return home to Utah to help take care of his ailing parents.

What follows is a very frank and sometimes jarring account of how Dan and his siblings learn to take care of their dying father as his disease quickly progresses. Their mother is almost no help, as she is going through her own chemotherapy treatments, and is also not taking her husband’s diagnosis very well.  Dan does not try to hide the fact that sometimes they don’t do a very good job as caretakers, and he honestly admits his disgust about the situation being forced upon him at such a young age.

In the preface of Home is Burning, Dan apologizes upfront that his family has a crude sense of humor and uses profanity…a lot.  He explains that this was their “way of dealing with the world and reducing some grief and depression.”  As a result, some may find the dark humor and generous use of expletives off-putting.  Despite this (or because of it), it is obvious to see just how much this family loves each other and deals with tragedy on their own terms.

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