Making an Exit
A Mother-Daughter Drama with Alzheimer's, Machine Tools, and Laughter
By Elinor Fuchs
(Metropolitan Books, Hardcover, 9780805063172, 208pp.)
Publication Date: February 10, 2005
Other Editions of This Title: Paperback
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Crackling with energy, the unexpected love story of a career-driven mother, a once-resentful daughter, and a ten-year battle with Alzheimer's
At a time when such things were rare, Elinor Fuchs's mother, Lil, escaped a miserable marriage, took back her maiden name, left young Elinor to be raised by grandparents, and launched a career that led her from the midwest to Washington, D.C. Rejoining her as an adolescent, Elinor watched as Lil traveled the world selling automotive parts and military gear, gave fabulous parties, and "in any given room, took up all the air there was." With her stunning looks and drive for success, Lil was a figure to admire, not a mother to love. Elinor determined to despise her mother's values and, once in college, to keep her distance.
Making an Exit is the moving account of what happened afterward, during the final years of Lil's life. Following her mother's diagnosis with Alzheimer's, Fuchs finds herself the caretaker. As the disease progresses, she becomes her mother's mother, dressing her, bathing her, feeding her-all with growing compassion. Lil changes, too: filled with new warmth, the word "love" now regularly crosses her lips. And through the fantastic poetry in the disintegration of Lil's language, mother and daughter make a surprising new start.
With wit, wisdom, and theatrical flair, Making an Exit tells an uncommon story of a parent's decline-less a conventional narrative of aging and loss than one of discovery, devotion, and spiritual growth. "The last ten years," writes Fuchs, "they were our best."
Elinor Fuchs, a professor at the Yale School of Drama, is the author of an award-winning play and major works of criticism, including The Death of Character. A nationally recognized theater critic, Fuchs wrote for The Village Voice for more than ten years, and has also contributed to The New York Times, Vogue, and American Theatre. She lives in Brooklyn.
"How these women touched me! Driven and real, Making an Exit hurtles toward its truths with uncommon feeling and honesty."
-- Gish Jen, author of The Love Wife
"Unflinchingly honest, open-hearted, and funny, this is a work of passionate intelligence and deep humanity."
-- Joyce Antler, author of The Journey Home
“Fuchs’ mother is larger than life in both her salad days and in her days of word salad. And Making an Exit overflows with life – its sorrows and surprises, its follies and joys.”
-- Anne Basting, Director of the Center on Age and Community, University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee
“Making an Exit is a rare and wonderful rollercoaster of a book, tender and touching, hilarious and high-spirited – a moving portrait of a daughter and mother that is fiercely intelligent, ineffably sad, and, finally, transcendent.”
-- Kathleen Woodward, author of Aging and its Discontents