(*for books for children and teens, see www.alisonachesonkids.com)
DANCE ME TO THE END, my memoir of caregiving, was released by Brindle & Glass (Touchwood Editions) on October 8, 2019.
Reviews from Library Journal and GoodReads:
Inspired by the Leonard Cohen song Dance Me to the End of Love, this lyrical debut memoir from Acheson (creative writing, Univ. of British Columbia; Learning To Live Indoors) captures life as a series of snapshots, as a couple grows simultaneously closer together and further apart in the wake of a sudden life change. Acheson shares dreams and letters, notes and journal entries from the months after her husband, Marty, was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). She relates how Marty, a guitarist and music teacher, distracted himself with golf while she found solace in writing and reading. Alternating between hope and acceptance, Acheson recalls her decision to enter the role of caregiver, longing to remember who Marty had been and who he still was. Her prose shines when asking questions with no easy answers, including how and when to disclose to their sons and extended family. As people volunteer information and ideas, and as the family turns to fundraising, she considers the meaning of words such as struggle in relation to illness. For Acheson, caregiving requires humor, flexibility, suspending judgment—and the willingness to accept her husband’s end-of-life wishes. VERDICT A mesmerizing memoir by a talented writer on coming to terms with the unexpected.—Stephanie Sendaula, Library Journal 09/01/2019
Alison Acheson’s Dance Me to the End: Ten Months and Ten Days with ALS, is a deeply moving account of the horror of disease and the beauty of marriage. Her narrative explores the “sustenance left in . . . ancient stories” (72) and how they can permeate to the bone marrow and help one persevere into the depths of suffering. It’s a book about what a good marriage can be in this broken world.
Acheson’s central metaphor is the biblical story of Martha and Mary—symbols of the active and contemplative spiritual lives. And the overarching framework is the mystery of grace. It is a woven narrative: like a tapestry of “silver fabric . . . [woven] between raw fingers” (312).
It’s also a book about how life catches us off guard and slams reality at us: “After years of struggling to make ends meet, growing my sons, growing my self—suddenly all the pieces seemed to have come together. Three weeks before Marty’s diagnosis, I’d told him how much I loved my fiftieth year, how it could go on without end, and I’d be happy” (155). And if life can hit us in these extreme ways, the author reflects upon the significance of “simple happiness” (115), and the need to prepare in advance: “[I]t is important that we go out and glean our bits, bring them in, so that when the time comes, we have what we need to get through. . . . to gather together elements of our world that resonate with us, that feel to have the capacity to build and strengthen us, to do this in healthy times, will surely grow and feed us in times that are not healthy” (294). And also to further this goal: “We collect experience, we connect with others, we build laughter and soul and home—so that when we need a foundation and a shelter, it will be there for us. But if it hasn’t been built, the sand under us will give way” (295).
The book is suffused with sincerity; it is authentic, realistic, spiritual, serious, romantic, humorous, with touches of both physical and emotional beauty. It contains numerous sentences worthy of highlighting, but here are a few of my favorites:
“White Rock, a beach town with hilly streets pushing up from the water . . . ” (38).
“It was dusk, and the sky had that luminous indigo teal to it . . . ” (41).
“I found myself folding away summer dresses. I’ve always loved summer dresses, cooling, feminine” (110).
“There was a window in the ensuite bathroom, and immediately outside this window was a weeping birch. In the summer, the glass was filled with delicious little green leaves. In the fall, the leaves were rattly orange” (162).
And finally this classic touch:
“Ten minutes later, Jesus [her son’s pet snail] was trolling the edges of the bowl, antennae up and happy as shit. Returned from the dead” (193).
Vic Cavalli reviewed Dance Me to the End: Ten Months and Ten Days with ALS in GoodReads.
- Paperback: 160 pages
- Publisher: Porcupine’s Quill (Oct. 15 1998)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0889842019
- ISBN-13: 978-0889842014
`The short stories in Alison Acheson’s Learning to Live Indoors deal with family relationships. Acheson, who lives in British Columbia, has previously published two young adult novels, one of which was shortlisted for several awards. But although this collection is full of domestic detail, there is nothing cozy about the stories.’
(Quill & Quire)
`Glossing sagely on the resilient question of what literature is for, Norman Mailer wrote in a recent book review that its true purpose is “comprehending a little more about men or women”. In other words, the fewer pyrotechnics, recipes, space aliens or plutonium heists the better. Fiction can be an entertaining or comforting diversion from the traumas and banalities of life, or it can grace the usual (or the unfamiliar) with revelatory light. At best it offers not rote sensation, but an arresting and crystalline clarity. … Alison Acheson has a gift of clarity. Of the twelve stories in Learning to Live Indoors, four achieve the crystalline in varying degrees. The rest, though less compelling, offer intriguing characters, some delicious twists and prose that remains lucid and assured.’
(Globe & Mail)
`At her best, Acheson is able to capture in prose all those little emotional struggles — the small, significant ones that really do go on in our minds — that encapsulate ordinary living.’
Back cover blurb
`The first thing you notice in Acheson’s stories are the words; the precision, the clarity. It’s as if she were lovingly-ardently reconstructing thought and image out of a dear, old, familiar language long fallen into disuse. She blows off the dust; discovers the shape of sound.’ ~~~ Tim Wynne Jones
Sex, once the great unspoken, is now regularly commodified and prepackaged for wide consumer consumption, on TV, in films, on billboards. In this context in which nothing is shocking–no boundary too sacred to cross–what does sex mean, particularly to those born under these conditions? Carnal Nation collects stories about sex by an exciting new generation of writers who boldly push the narrative envelope. These are not your typical bump-and-grind tales, but stories written in a startling new language, bringing fresh meaning to the term “polymorphously perverse”: from a high-school deflowering on the hood of a car by a dildo-wielding girl who calls herself a guy, to a talented male stripper who demonstrates his ability to open a Coke bottle with no hands, to suburban porn watching as a precursor to racial harmony.
The thirty-two contributors include some of the most provocative and interesting young writers working today. Carnal Nation is cunning, shocking, and brazenly cocky.
Contributors include: Alison Acheson, Sonja Ahlers, Diana Atkinson, Michelle Berry, Carellin Brooks, Clint Burnham, Natalee Caple, Martine Delveaux, Tamas Dobozy, Tess Fragoulis, Camilla Gibb, Sky Gilbert, Robert Gray, Steven Heighton, Michael Holmes, Larissa Lai, Elise Levine, Annabel Lyon, Judy MacDonald, Mark Macdonald, Suzette Mayr, Derek McCormack, Hal Niedzviecki, Andy Quan, Rachel Rose, Michael V. Smith, Erin Soros, Nathalie Stephens, Anne Stone, Michael Turner, R.M. Vaughan, and Marnie Woodrow.
(arsenalpulp.com 2005-11-10) (from amazon.ca)
In 1946, the poet Earle Birney, then an English professor at the University of British Columbia, broke new ground by establishing a single course within the English department, one for the writer “naked in academe.” He went on to found the UBC Creative Writing Department in 1963 – Canada’s first university writing program, a learner-centered, interdisciplinary experience that has produced many of Canada’s finest writers and poets.
Celebrating fifty years of creative writing at UBC, Naked in Academe showcases an impressive diversity of literary voices that have grown out of the program. From short stories to poetry, narrative essays to scripts for theatre and film, herein is a dynamic collection of writing from across Canada that, like the program itself, is at once contemporary and vibrant, relevant and incisive.