Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Five Minutes With Maggie...

When Madeline Was Young by Jane Hamilton

Newlyweds Madeline and Aaron were happily and madly in love. But when a tragedy befalls Madeline, she suffers brain damage that reduces her to the mental capacity of a small child. Aaron refuses to abandon his wife even though her own parents have seemed to disappear, unable to cope with the tragedy. Aaron decides to care for her as though she is his young daughter. Aaron remarries, and he and his new wife Julia have two children. Though Julia readily accepts care of Madeline, the daily life of this family is unique and it affects their two children.

This story, told through the eyes of Aaron's now-grown-up son chronicles the rise and fall of his extended family through the political struggles of the 60s and 70s. Madeline's story - heart-wrenching, touching, and emotional - provides the delicate undercurrent and the binding factor for this family. Throughout the novel, questions are constantly and subtly posed: Was this the right arrangement for Madeline? Did her care help or hurt the family bond? And if this happened to someone in your family, what would you do? -Maggie Marton

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