Todd Johnson, Author of 'The Sweet By and By' - Finding Compassion andGoodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read. Want to Read saving…. Want to Read Currently Reading Read. Other editions. Enlarge cover.
The Sweet By and By
Delving Into a Nursing Home—and Finding Compassion and Humor
Johnson's bittersweet and often humorous hen-lit debut portrays the lives of five very different Southern women: compassionate Lorraine, bossy Margaret, grief-stricken Bernice, ambitious April and brusque Rhonda. At the center of this character-driven novel is Lorraine, a nurse at the nursing home where Margaret and Bernice live. As the three women drift into friendship, hairdresser Rhonda arrives to take a part-time job, and the older women begin to change her life. Lorraine's daughter, April, meanwhile, is also gradually drawn into the circle. The story unfolds slowly over decades and life milestones, giving the characters plenty of time to reveal themselves. Johnson has a sure ear for Southern speech, though the dialect can become tiresome, and the narrative's lack of plot makes the novel feel overlong.
Set in a nursing home in rural Johnston County, N. She is filled with dignity, wit and the grace she was born with as the daughter of North Carolina tobacco farmers. Though infirm from painful arthritis, she can still spar with others offering intelligent commentary, displaying integrity and independence. Just ask Lorraine, the God-fearing African-American practical nurse who takes care of her. Lorraine, a humble but venerable middle-aged woman believes in treating the elderly—even those suffering from dementia—with complete compassion and respect.
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Instead, he tackles what could be called the interim by and by, the thing so many of us fear—life in a nursing home and the final stages of aging. And he manages to take some of the sting out of what can be a painful experience. Raised in the South, Johnson was close to his four grandparents and spent much time with them, especially his grandmothers when they entered nursing homes in North Carolina. We begin to experience the nursing home through their eyes. The usual suspects show up—the unsavory staff members, the impatient and uninvolved family members, the bouts of ill health.
Thank you! Lorraine, an African-American practical nurse, suppresses traumatic memories of an abusive husband and the crib death of her firstborn by concentrating on creating a semblance of normalcy for her charges at Ridgecrest, a North Carolina nursing home. Rhonda, painfully conscious of her poor white origins, does hair at Ridgecrest once a week, and, spurred on by Margaret, Lorraine and Bernice, gradually gains self-acceptance. After the adventure proves too much for Bernice she passes away in her sleep in the hotel room , the story loses whatever impetus it had. Letters left behind, written by Bernice to her beloved younger son Wade after his death in a car crash, convincingly if anticlimactically document her descent into madness. Extended meditations by the surviving principals except Margaret, who thankfully retains her refreshing cynicism on the Big Questions make for a predictable and lifeless denouement. There was a problem adding your email address.
Sign up for our newsletters! Recently, a music ensemble in which I participate accepted an invitation to perform at a local nursing home during the December holidays. Although many of our members enjoyed the opportunity to connect with its residents over music, others privately confessed a reluctance to do so, saying that nursing homes make them emotionally uncomfortable. At the center of the novel are two of its residents, Margaret Clayton and Bernice Stokes. Margaret is still totally lucid, at times much to the dismay of the home's nurses and administrators, as well as the less-than-perfect families of other residents. She has a tendency to be bossy and self-righteous, but she also cares deeply about the people in her life.