Community Magazine

The Stranger in My Recliner: Book Review

By Thegenaboveme @TheGenAboveMe

The Stranger in My Recliner: Book Review

Published 26 January 2016.

Fate brought Sophie into John McGettigan's path one day--quite literally. 
When Sophie fell on the sidewalk in front of him, John recognized this small, octogenarian woman from their casual friendship as residents of the same town.  
At that time, Sophie had been living outside after losing permission to sleep in a basement of a meeting hall.  
Once John learned she was homeless, he drove Sophie home where his wife Doreen agreed that they should make a bed on the couch for Sophie. 
A night's refuge turned into a week, then a month. 
Somehow, Sophie ended up living with the McGettigans for over a year.  As a writer, Doreen worked through her thoughts and feelings about caring for Sophie by writing The Stranger in My Recliner
Books about Aging 
With a combination of pragmatics and tenderness, McGettigan worked to improve Sophie's physical, emotional and mental health.   
Finding social services proved to be a Herculean task.  Even establishing Sophie's family relationships and personal history was challenging.  Sophie struggled to maintain her meager finances, scant possessions and personal hygiene, which was very frustrating for neat-as-a-pin  McGettigan. 
Each time McGettigan thought she couldn't continue caring for Sophie, she would see a vulnerability, a strength or an insight from Sophie that melted her heart.  
In addition to relaying a compelling narrative about Sophie, McGettigan includes some research about the US policies for the homeless and the mentally ill. These passages help provide a context for the difficulties that many other people face in trying to survive, let alone thrive.  
McGettigan's book does a marvelous job personalizing the problem of homelessness, especially among mature women who are ill-equipped for their golden years.  Although the book contains a number of difficult and awkward scenarios, these situations are thought provoking.  They help move homelessness from out of the shadows. 
Related:
How We Age (a book by a geriatric psychiatrist)
Showering with Nana (a caregiver's journey)
Chast's Graphic Novel on Caregiving

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