What Readers Are Saying About Autumn’s Grace

Hard Truth In An Excellent Story. In Autumn’s Grace, Bonnie Lendrum pulls no punches in her engrossing chronicle of the struggles of a contemporary Canadian family during the physical and emotional decline and death of its patriarch from abdominal cancer. While Lendrum has a clear agenda, the exposure of the weaknesses and some of the strengths of the health care system in meeting the needs of the terminally ill and their families, she promotes it through engaging characterization and compelling story telling rather than through polemics. She expertly describes the clinical progression and treatment of the illness unrelentingly and minutely and, as someone who recently supported a loved one through an uncannily similar ordeal, I found every detail heartbreakingly true to life. Lendrum uses shifting points of view, especially those of the dying man’s two eldest daughters, to present a realistic and sympathetic picture of the frustration, the emotional roller coaster and the profound effects, both positive and negative, on family dynamics engendered by such a crisis. Through her characters she explores the fragility, the persistence and the changing nature of hope during an illness with an inevitable outcome, and this is one of the most interesting and effective themes of this multifaceted story. The minor key of the narrative is brightened by the backdrop in which parts of the story play. Autumn’s Grace presents a loving look at the landscape, people and traditional way of life in rural and small town Ontario, effectively contrasting them with the frenetic pace of modern urban family and professional life. Autumn’s Grace is a “must read” for everyone whose family has experienced or may experience a serious health care crisis. That means us all. Joseph Bloom – Chapters-Indigo Review

Absolutely Great. Having lost both my parents last year it was great to read this book and realize everything my family went through was what every other family experiences. I laughed and cried my way from cover to cover! Your book made me understand everything I felt in the last year was normal.   Such a gift.  Thank you. Everyone should read this book! MARGARET COXHEAD, Chapters-Indigo Review

I wanted to say to you that I think your book would make a good case study for training purposes. It would give students a broad look at a palliative care situation and take them through all the patient’s steps in ways that they could even act out among themselves… Don’t know if that happens in health care training. Maybe it could be a way to start it. Ruth Edgett, author of a Watch in the Night – The Story of Pomquet Island’s Last Lightkeeping Family – Note to Author

Realistic and Touching. There can, perhaps, be no greater tragedy than the diagnosis of a beloved family member with a terminal illness. In Autumn’s Grace, Jessie exposes the love, guilt, anger, fear and frustration within a very traditional Canadian family as it struggles with the care of its beloved patriarch, Max, who has been diagnosed with cancer. The book addresses the the woeful inadequacy of the healthcare system in providing comfort and care in a professional, confidence-inspiring, manner. Autumn’s Grace is an essential read for healthcare professionals, terminal illness support group members and families facing the death of a loved one. Trevor Phillips – Review on Amazon.com

I just got back from a wonderful vacation… with my two daughters. Sitting poolside I read ” Autumn’s Grace“. As a Mother,Wife , Sister and  Daughter I felt a  connection with  each character that you developed. I thought it was a wonderful book and so enjoyed having the uninterrupted time to read it . Thanks. Linda Clements – Note to Author

I love your novel! Reading it in early July gave me the most pleasure I have had in years. You have managed to create a family that I feel I know and would love to spend time with; and you also deftly circumscribe the ripples that swell after the news of a patriarch’s terminal cancer diagnosis. My father died of cancer at the age of 64 when I was just 30. If I had read your book at that time, it would have been cathartic and helpful. Reading it 27 years after my father’s death allowed me to look back at the process without grief and with great understanding. Great prose, wonderful, intelligent characters, and a story that rings true. Thank you so much for writing this excellent novel.  MISTY INGRAHAM, Past English Department Chair at Hillfield Strathallan College – Note to Author

This is a marvelously written book about the end of life journey taken by a much beloved family patriarch. It is a great representation of how complex family dynamics create significant challenges when confronted by a terminal health crisis. As well,our health care system’s wide variation both in terms of competence and compassion are laid bare as the father’s care progresses in line with the cancer which is ravaging his body. For Ms. Lendrum’s first effort I found this book very well crafted with beautiful descriptions of landscape and geography that every Canadian would identify with. Clinical descriptions are extremely comprehensive which I enjoyed but others might not. Its end presents a final powerful message that life does go on and in a sense death and birth define life itself. It is a powerful prescription for change in our health care system and that our treatment of palliative care, end of life care needs much more work and a more compassionate focus. KEN CLARK – Review on Goodreads site

It is a very well written book! Very exciting, engaging and an eye opener on the Canadian health care which is a very important topic to address. Another topic that this book tackled beautifully is the family dynamics among the family members in facing a crisis! The author was able to keep you interested in spite of the difficult topic she is addressing. Very well done and definitely worth reading. Manal Adham-Ramadan – Review on Goodreads

I enjoyed reading Autumn’s Grace; rang true from my recent experience. Nice combination of introspection and dialogue; the more people we have talking about palliative care, the better it may be when we need it. Gwen Todd – Review on Goodreads

I had the pleasure of receiving this book through a Goodreads giveaway. I was nervous about reading it because of the complex subject matter, but I have to say I thoroughly enjoyed it. It is very well written and explores the challenges facing families on an end-of-life journey. I am sure there are many families who will be able to relate to the diagnosis and treatments discussed in this book. I enjoyed the snippets of humour throughout the book, a much needed pick me up for the subject matter. The family dynamics made for an interesting read, yet the realistic and clinical details make the book a must read for anyone facing such challenges. I would recommend this book to other readers who are willing to delve into what patient care in Canada is all about. Janet Weibe – Review on Goodreads

Well Written, Stirring And Informative. A sensitive topic courageously explored. In 1983, along with my siblings, we went on this same journey when my mother was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer. Our journey was only 6 months and at the time I had a baby and toddler. Taking the journey again through ‘Autumn’s Grace’ gave me the opportunity to fill in the blanks and explore feelings that I had long buried. Today, my father is in his autumn years celebrating his 93rd birthday this week. The story has now better prepared me for this same journey with my father. Bonnie’s exploration of family relationships and how each person struggles with their own emotions throughout the journey was inspiring. In addition to the compassionate side of the story, I am extremely grateful to have learned some of the complexities of the health care system and will be able to apply much of what I learned! A great read, thank you Bonnie! Mary Houston – Note Sent to Web-site.

 Compelling Read. I enjoyed this book, despite its difficult subject matter. I felt that the author skilfully illustrated the subtle nuances of relationships within a family, and the difficulties in navigating a stressful crisis, such as a terminal illness. I clearly sensed the author’s personal experience as a long time participant in the Ontario health care system, but the story was told with alternating tones of humour, compassion, and frustration, the balance of these being perfectly played. In the end, you realize that people are not perfect, families are not perfect, systems are not perfect, and certainly dying is not perfect. It is, however, a very human experience that we all want to have with our dignity intact, and hopefully some loved ones to share it with.  Barb TenEycke – Chapters-Indigo Review and Amazon Review

Just a note to let you know I finished the book yesterday afternoon. You are a beautiful writer. I loved the Campbell family and did not want the book to end. Sequel????  I must admit I was very emotional during the last few chapters as I felt as though I was on my Mom’s journey once again.  The reference to the flute CD’s was especially touching as nothing made my mom happier than to hear Rachel play for her and she did so beautifully at her service…mom’s request in her service planning notes.” DEBBIE DEMERS – Note to Author

Perfect. Autumn’s Grace reveals a family’s struggle to come to terms with the terminal cancer diagnosis for the patriarch, and the ensuing challenges the family members confront in the healthcare system. Ms. Lendrum provides an expert and honest view on the latter given her years of experience working in healthcare in Canada. Having worked as a nurse and administrator in healthcare myself for many years, I can confirm the “discoveries” that the family members make about navigating the system, from symptom onset to diagnosis to treatment and finally to “managing the dying piece”. Jessie, the daughter, is a fierce protagonist who provides razor sharp commentary about the idiocies and inadequacies she faces in getting the best information and care for her father. She also describes the frustrations that adult children experience when dealing with the beliefs and behaviours of aging parents. The author’s sense of humour shines through, such that even as I was grimacing at the detailed descriptions of bodily functions, I laughed out loud at the honest interactions between family members, and at the descriptions of various health care professionals – nurses, physicians, managers – since these rang true with my own experiences. Barbara Willitts – Chapters-Indigo Review

This novel will provide the reader with a deep understanding and appreciation of what “dying” is like for the patient and their family, and what is needed for a “good death”. Since all of us have a terminal diagnosis, it is wise to be prepared, for ourselves and our loved ones. Ms. Lendrum provides an excellent “User’s Guide” to the inevitable! Barbara, Amazon Review

Not For The Faint Of Heart. Since this book is written from the perspective of the medical profession in Ontario, Canada it may not be as relevant to an audience outside of that boundary. On the other hand it speaks to what may well be a phenomenon of the medical profession in North America as a whole in the 21st century.

As an overall theme: “Simple courtesy. That was all it took to keep a person from being swallowed up by an institution.” (Pg.22) is one that would resonate with anyone who has had to deal with serious medical issues in a profession that vowed “to do no harm’ only to come upon `professionals’ who appear to have no concept of what this means.While the manuscript could have done with one more edit those small mistakes have not taken away from the very moving & informative text.The story relates the struggle of one family dealing with their 75 year old father & husband’s recent diagnoses of cancer. The father, a veterinary surgeon, this particular family was among the fortunate with two daughters highly placed in the nursing profession & a son also a veterinary surgeon. This combined medical knowledge was of great assistance as the family navigated a medical system that is not always kind to those without connections or inside knowledge. A thought that will not be of any comfort to those without said connections &/or inside knowledge.Some revelations about the nursing profession were startling: “Eighty percent of practicing nurses haven’t even been to university. Which means that we have people who’ve graduated from the non-academic stream in high school, taken two years of community college, and now are charged with the responsibility of managing the welfare of other people’s lives.” … “And not only are there more sick people for nurses to care for but there are now fewer managers to support nurses.” … “That means that there are nursing staff who haven’t had the benefit of mentoring from dedicated nurse managers. They enter as novices, most become competent and some go on to become proficient. And proficient isn’t good enough when you have a complex, unpredictable environment. We need experts.” (Pg.215). “Minimum standards have never struck me as being quality care.” (Pg.216).
“Meanwhile cost cutting continued, nursing positions were lost and space was made for “multi-skilled” aides – people taken off the streets and given a year’s worth of training and then sent in to assist in the care of patients.” (Pg.283).This is a riveting & heart-wrenching depiction of one family’s ordeal in coping with terminal illness. It is not recreational reading by any means. It is not going to leave you with much confidence in the system that you are bound to deal with at some point, like it or not, but I believe it is probably factual & may pave the way to know what to expect should the occasion arrive.

In the end, especially after a long & difficult illness, one is left with the feeling: “So that’s it! That’s all there is.” (Pg.395).

It is probably unfair of me to give this book only 3 stars because I found it hard to deal with the truths it provided, but I found it impossible to give 4 stars to say that I `liked’ it.

If the author should be aware of this review I hope she will not take it personally because I do see the relevance of the text & am gratified that such a book has been written in order to inform the public. I appreciate the knowledge I have gained by reading about a medical system that is in need of as much healing as any cancer patient. But I simply don’t have it in me to say that I `liked’ it. littleladyblue – Amazon Review

Formidable But Manageable. The author balances the complexity of dealing with a terminal illness with just a thread of humour to help the reader along. Being written by a professional health care worker, this novel is as much a reference guide as it is a fictional story. Although I disagree somewhat with the author’s strong opinion on nursing and the Ontario health care system, I have to agree with the character’s emotions and exasperations within their situation. Regardless, Ms. Lendrum’s strong writing skills keeps you reading to the bitter end. I recommend this book to any one who wants to understand the emotional strain that the patient and family go through from diagnosis, through treatments and to the final end. Arlene – Amazon Review

To be of use (an excerpt from the poem by Marge Percy, and sent by Kathleen Doerner-Miller)

The people I love best
jump into work head first
without the dallying in the shallows
and swim the sure strokes almost out of sight.

I love people who harness themselves,
an ox to a heavy cart,
who pull water like a buffalo, with
massive patience,
who do what has to be done, again and
again.

Bonnie – wonderful heartfelt story.  KATHLEEN DOERNER-MILLER – Note to Author

Helpful And Insightful. Autumn’s Grace allowed me to reflect on my own father’s final days – a time of agonizing joy. The book captures the physical, emotional and spiritual vulnerability of a family’s journey through illness. Helpful and insightful – thank you Bonnie. Janice Wilson – Chapters-Indigo Review

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