"Life's a bitch and then you die"
Waterleigh Care Home is not an upbeat novel by any means, but it is an eloquent plea for human dignity. It is the unusual story of a transgender person, who, after many years of insufferable agony accommodating a male gender role, finally comes to terms with her true self and belatedly becomes the woman she was always meant to be. But, in the saddest of ironies, the anaesthesia administered during her surgery triggers a flat out plunge into dementia that lands her in a nursing home where she spends her final days in decline.
Molly Cutpurse speaks to us on many levels in this fine book. She tells us to enjoy life while we can and always be true to ourselves. She also makes it clear that our transgender protagonist is a person first, and, as such, needs to be treated with utmost dignity. Then there is the issue of true compassion, that very rare commodity possessed by so few. But why do we shirk our natural inclination to be kind to others when, one day we too will be at the end of our journey? My guess is that it is too painful for most of us to go there; too agonizing to view our own demise in the eyes of the sick and dying. That is where this novel shines.
This book was particularly impactful for me given that my own mother died recently. For most of her life she was a beautiful and charismatic figure, projecting a stunning magnificence and a radiance that often made the lives of those around her sweeter. She did not happen to be a transgender person, like Sarah, the protagonist in this novel, but like Sarah, she was very human and had an edgy side. She could be outspoken, sometimes feisty and often deliver a verbal jab that could put one soundly in their place. This very human quality was demonstrated to me even in her last days when I decided to pay her one final visit.
At first my mother, who even near the end still radiated a special beauty, seemed unaware of my presence, although I tried hard to stir her. Finally, it appeared that I had her attention and I attempted to make contact with the mother I once knew. She had not seen me in some time and she had never known me to wear a beard before, so I asked, "Mom, do you like my beard?" No answer. She continued to stare at me, a bemused, Mona Lisa look on her countenance. I repeated my query several times over. Finally came her measured reply. "What are you, a masochist?" She proclaimed. Those were her last words to me.
Read this novel for a taste of what it means to live.
[Reviewed by Samuel]