Tag Archives: National Post

It’s always perfect weather to read…

I’ve been keeping cozy with lots of good reading recently. I’ll share a few mini-reviews but first a fun bookish activity for Canadians.

The National Post hosts the Afterword Reading Society. In exchange for a free, pre-release copy of a book, participants are asked to read it and provide feedback by answering a short set of questions. I was one of the lucky 25 who were sent a copy of The Winter People by Jennifer McMahon, and a couple of my responses were used in the paper. Anyone (presumably Canadian) can join so go here to sign up. Periodically you’ll get an email asking whether you’re interested in reading a particular book, and then you cross your fingers!

I’m currently reading Quality Of Life Report by Meghan Daum. Recommended by Curtis Sittenfeld, this book is funny and easy and like a warm cup of hot chocolate on a cold winter day. I needed it at this point, as I am just coming down from The Dark Road by exiled Chinese writer Ma Jian. My Goodreads review:

The Dark RoadThe Dark Road by Ma Jian

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This novel is a disturbing tale of life under the Family Planning regime in China. Kongzi longs for a son to carry on his family’s dynastic name, and he and his wife Meili are forced to flee their village when she becomes pregnant a second time. This work also looks at the issues around electronic waste and the terrifying impact of the significant recycling industry on people and the environment as well as the fate of families without residency permits, struggling to eke out an existence when they are not acknowledged by the state. This is a difficult book to read, but also difficult to put down.

Another recent read:

A Gate at the StairsA Gate at the Stairs by Lorrie Moore

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I’d had this book on my shelf for some time and wish I’d gotten to it sooner. Moore’s prose is gorgeous, funny, and evocative, often all at the same time. There is a lot happening in it, and I almost felt like the narratives might have been better served in a set of linked short stories. A lot to think about in this novel, and I’m still processing it, but my sense is that it’s about the blurry edges between good and evil. Lovely.

I’m very much enjoying listening to the historical novel Katherine by the late Anya Seton. It’s a big book (500 pages) and over 28 hours long. I’m about halfway through it, and got a good start during my travels to Ottawa last week.

Before that, I loved the hilarity that is The Spellman Files: Document #1 by Lisa Lutz. It’s kind of like a Harriet the Spy for grownups and had an excellent narrator. I’ll definitely be reading more in the series.

Next up in print will be the Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize winning  A Beautiful Truth by Colin McAdam, my book club pick for February. And for a complete change of (audio) pace, I’ve got Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan queued up on the iPhone.

What books are you snuggling up with?

Mexican Chicken Sandwiches

In sorting through one of my paper piles, I uncovered a recipe by Amy Rosen that I’d torn out of the National Post last February. (So low-tech, I know.) In her quest to understand why we don’t have sandwiches for dinner more often, she whipped up this concoction that got raves round the outdoor dinner table last night.

Photo: Amy Rosen
Photo: Amy Rosen

Built on fresh, Portuguese rolls, it’s made up of heated and mashed black beans, butterflied, marinated, and sautéed/grilled chicken breasts topped with cheddar cheese, avocado slices, fresh onion rings, and a tangy lime-mayonnaise.

Highly recommended!

Thinking about the end. Are you ready?

CaregiverThe National Post has recently run a number of columns on palliative care that are worth a read. I have had an interest in this area for many years, and worked on the board of the Maycourt Hospice (then called The Hospice of All Saints) when I lived in Ottawa. At that time, the hospice movement was relatively new in Canada and the hospice provided much needed services in the community, offering relief to home-based caregivers of dying persons through trained volunteers as well as a day hospice program where people in their last days could spend a day at the hospice, relaxing, having a meal, making use of an accessible tub and chatting with others facing the same issues. Since then, the Hospice has expanded to in-patient services where beds are available for those who are unable to spend their last days at home.

Jonathan Kay has written about these issues, beginning with a piece describing the conflict between the training of many physicians “who take “heroic” measures to provide dying, elderly patients with a few extra days in intensive care.” This was followed by an article describing the point of view of physicians who often feel pressured by families to continue invasive treatment, particularly when they are ethically required to describe alternate scenarios for a patient’s last days.

Dr. Larry Librach
Dr. Larry Librach

In today’s Post, Tom Blackwell writes of the lack of physician training in how to talk with patients about dying. He interviewed Dr. Larry Librach, a palliative care physician who “has developed a unique program to teach health professionals how to deal with assisted-death requests in a country where saying ‘Yes’ could lead to murder charges — and a flat ‘No’ might cut short an important conversation.”  Librach says that understanding why a patient wants to die can lead to discussions that can ultimately provide direction to families and physicians.

As the population ages, these are important issues to understand and to discuss with those who may be responsible for your end-of-life care. In particular, we need designate who should speak for us at the end (typically through a Power of Attorney for Personal Care) as well as detailed instructions for the measures we want to be taken should we find ourselves in protracted final days (advance care plan – pdf).

I’ve had a Power of Attorney for both Financial and Personal Care for many years, but have never completed an Advance Care Plan. I’ll be doing that today. If you’re not convinced that you need one, please read some of Kay and Blackwoods articles. More information on Powers of Attorney is available here.