Gore is the publisher and editor of the alternative parenting magazine Hip Mama and the author of seven previous works of fiction and nonfiction. Her latest book about caring for her mother is not a how-to. While she beautifully details the turbulent years after her mother, Eve, was diagnosed with Stage IV lung cancer, the focus of the book is not about how to navigate doctors and treatment plans, or manage the logistics or the cost of such care.
“I trust that most people who read my book already know something about love and trauma and nurturance and heartbreak and the violence of life and survival and lust and grief and rage and wanting to behave in a way we’ll be proud of. Part of the reason, though, that there are so few stories about the hard and crazy part of caregiving for the dying is that our culture teaches us to ‘get over it’—which is a kind of forgetting. I didn’t want to forget.
“I started writing The End of Eve just a couple of weeks after my mom died. From a mental health perspective, I probably should have waited. I had a lot of nightmares. But from an artistic perspective I knew I couldn’t wait. Very soon after my mom died I found myself beginning to sugar-coat the experience. I told myself, well, maybe it wasn’t that bad. That’s when I knew I had to get the story on paper as soon as I could.”
While the book is about the time between Eve’s diagnosis and her eventual death, it incorporates flashbacks from Gore’s childhood and adolescence as a way to further explain their complicated relationship. Gore explained, “I used flashbacks to illuminate her character and show that her particular way of being and her particular patterns of crazy were who she was—not just the result of tumors and being told she was going to die—although obviously those things didn’t help!” The memoir, in this way, is both a story about Gore’s struggle to care for Eve, and a complex family drama that incorporates four generations.
Whether we assume the role of caregiver or not, all of us at some point in our lives will search for this place. In Eve Gore writes, “Americans had moved from a moral mythology to a technological mythology, so we’d come to see death as something that could be overcome. Death was like a broken appliance—just a mechanical problem to be investigated, solved, and fixed.” But of course that isn’t true at all: We cannot fix death; we can only survive it.
Books can help. Gore read On Death and Dying by Elisabeth Kübler-Ross; Cuttin’ the Body Loose by William Joseph Gavin; The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion; and the work of Leslie Marmon Silko, which, she explained, “grounded me in the geography and the mythology and head-space of the American Southwest, where I’d found myself.” The End of Eve is another book that can help. It is a book not just for caregivers, or mothers, or daughters, but for anyone who has experienced the trauma of both love and loss.
All photographs courtesy of Ariel Gore