A CAREGIVER’S RESPONSE: Our Shared Journey by Gary Pacernick is a collection of autobiographical poems, rooted in personal tragedy. After a long and enduring battle, the author lost his wife, Dotti, to cancer, and the book primarily chronicles their “shared journey” following the initial diagnosis, culminating in the moment of her death.
The poems in this collection are extremely short and lucid, written in a deliberately simple language, which in turn, makes it all the more hard-hitting for the reader. Dotti was only thirty-three years old when she received the “terrible news” and thus began the once-happy couple’s journey into subsequent despair, with countless medical tests, several doctors’ consultations, a multitude of expensive treatments, and a series of surgeries that ultimately took her life.
Early on, in the poem “To Whom Should I Pray That Dotti Be Cured”, the writer experiences a crisis of faith, as his familiar reality begins to crumble. Yet this probes him to venture deeper and realize that sorrow and suffering are an intrinsic part of life. The cancer diagnosis is confirmed at the same time as 9/11/01, prompting the author to associate the “terror” of cancer that ravages the body of an individual with the harrowing events taking place in the outside world — “while our country decides how to counteract those who seek to destroy our body politic”. Also interspersed within the narrative, are anecdotes about other people–patients, nurses, strangers–fighting their separate battles, along with the memorialization of small moments of tenderness and happiness–a walk across a promenade, the sight of ducks flapping their wings, sharing of homemade cake–that are often otherwise taken for granted.
Divided into two parts, “Phase One” and “Phase Two”, the poems gradually become more intense and tear-jerking. In fact, the ones in the latter section are only titled by date and time, making the reading experience very diary-like and intimate. Too often, the caregiver’s own pain is sidelined, but like with other tragedies, this memoir makes it clear that cancer doesn’t only destroy the life of the patient, but also tears apart the lives of the caregiver, family members, and other well-wishers.
A CAREGIVER’S RESPONSE: Our Shared Journey by Gary Pacernick is a collection of autobiographical poems that delves into the tragedy of a cancer patient and her caregiver, reminding readers in stark and simple language, that no one is ever truly alone in their pain. A brilliant but harrowing read.
~Archita Mittra for IndieReader