When Hollis Giammatteo sought a job working with the elderly, she did so with the intention of finding models of healthy aging. And she failed. In The Shelf Life of Ashes, Giammatteo chronicles her experiences with her wards, as well as the trip she embarks upon when her mother, who is convinced she is dying, entreats her to come home. Trips back, traumas triggered, identity in crisis, equanimity gained this quasi-comic, concentrated journey engages the reader in the process of naming and facing the tasks involved in growing old, while asking a simple but weighted question: Can aging be done well?"
A practicing Buddhist for over thirty years, Hollis Giammatteo has sought experiences that would challenge her practice, from teaching a method of writing to working with the elderly. She co-founded, managed and wrote plays for The Wilma Theater in Philadelphia, PA; it is thriving still. She was also a playwright in residence for the Rhode Island Feminist Theater (RIFT). This was followed by participation in a women’s peace walk, On The Line, which she wrote about in a memoir of that title. She has published in a variety of magazines: Prairie Schooner, The North American Review, Ms., Calyx, Vogue, and Women’s Sports and Fitness, among others. She has also been granted an NEA, awarded a residency at the Cottages at Hedgebrook, and received a PEN/Jerard Award, honoring “a distinguished nonfiction work-in-progress for an emerging woman writer,” for her work On the Line: Memoir of a Peace Walk.
This was a good book about how life is throw you a curve ball and getting older. It was an honest and poetic read. It honestly made me cry and very sad to be growing up.
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