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You’re Not You
ISBN: 0-312-35229-8
By: Michelle Wildgen

Review by: Cheryl A Townsend


Wildgen, a former Ohio Stowite bookworm, masters her first novel with the tightest story I’ve read in years. As strippingly honest as Ethan Hawke with the simple elegance of Kent Haruf and a touch of Jennifer Weiner’s wit. No padding, no redundancies, just impeccably good writing with incredible insight into the life of a Lou Gehrig’s victim. With respect and empathy, Wildgen takes us into the home and oh-so-personal life of Kate, a rapidly declining, well-to-do sufferer of the disease and Bec, the happenstance caretaker who stumbled into the job that inevitably becomes her life, if only temporarily.

Bec was just looking for a change. Her go-no-where love affair with a married professor, her flailing college career and mundane job sends her seeking a better meaning to life. She finds that and more via servitude and living by proxy as a home health aide. At first, Bec’s ineptitude and embarrassment of the situations she is assigned to tarry her edification. But Kate’s own patience and sincere gratitude soon segue to Bec’s niche in her new endeavor.

Bec has to translate, in first person, for Kate’s strained whispers, emoting the intent of origin, (hence, the title), tend to all her hygienic needs and take on all household tasks. When Kate tells her husband to move out, in lieu of his just seeking sexual release elsewhere, Bec moves in and takes over everything.

A close, (yet no too close), relationship evolves with a bonding that steps just to the side of professionalism. Kate’s wealth is evident and her generosity abundant, frequently lavishing Bec with spontaneous perks. Kate also has several close friends, caring parents and a realistic outlook to her encroaching end. Strict instructions are given and taken when her time comes, which leaves Bec in a lost state of identity until she finds diverted fulfillment in a cooking job garnered by the palatable masterpieces prepared in Kate’s employ. Though Kate remains a ghost in Bec’s life, she is neither haunting nor unwelcome.

* As an added bonus, there are several great cooking tips thrown into a couple kitchen scenes.


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