If Marylee MacDonald’s novel Montpelier Tomorrow reads more like a memoir than fiction, that is because it draws so greatly on her own life and because it is so well written. As a result, this story of a middle-aged widow’s response to the grave illness that afflicts her son-in-law brings tears to the eyes and tugs at the heart.
ALS, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, is a progressive neurological disease usually ending in death within five years. When Colleen Gallagher learns her son-in-law Tony’s diagnosis, she does everything in her power to help. With two small children and a sick husband, Colleen’s daughter Sandy cannot cope without that assistance. In the process of caring for Tony and helping with the little ones, Colleen learns a great deal about life and about herself.
The reader not only shares Colleen’s growth but also her growing understanding of this horrid disease as well as the difficulties of her role as caretaker. MacDonald doesn’t spare the details. At times this is a tough book about a very tough topic. Fortunately, the author is able to bring sufficient humor and hope to Montpelier Tomorrow that for all the tears this book will bring there will also be chuckles and hope — yes in the face of inevitable death there is hope.
While ALS hits only a small number of people, many of us will have debilitating illnesses. This is a book that should be read by anyone who is going to become a caretaker for those who will be truly debilitated. It should also be read by those who appreciate a heart-warming story of the human spirit.