Gene, Everywhere

A Life-Changing Visit from My Father-In-Law

Non-Fiction - Memoir
297 Pages
Reviewed on 01/31/2020
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    Book Review

Reviewed by Jamie Michele for Readers' Favorite

Gene, Everywhere: A Life-Changing Visit from my Father-in-Law by Talya Tate Boerner is a non-fiction memoir that chronicles a time in Boerner's life when caring for an aging relative became the household's responsibility. After his wife Pauline is admitted for care in a local Arkansas hospital, ninety-year-old Gene goes to live with his son John in Dallas, Texas. Talya is really the one who becomes his primary carer, helped (in thought even if not in actuality) by the family dog, Lucy. Gene is slow-moving and slow to remember, which makes Talya's job a little more involved. This is compounded by Gene's tendency to micro-manage and his reluctance to accept even small changes despite them being in his best interest. He's rough around the edges and has the abrupt, straightforward tone that men of his generation often do, but there's also an intense sensitivity that emerges in tears when he is watching the news or recalling an old memory. As the visit lengthens, Tayla balances her banking work with Gene's failing memory, post-traumatic stress, medication and meal schedule, and the labyrinth of medicare. When Talya and John hire Gene a carer so Talya can return to work, she begins to understand the positive impact of Gene's presence and the things that truly are most important.

Gene, Everywhere is an entertaining and emotional look into the life of a father and the relationship between the author Talya Tate Boerner, who had never spent as long as even ten days with her in-laws beforehand, and the man who raised her husband. It's written with great insight and wit, allowing Boerner's old dream of writing a book about sex and sarcasm to come to fruition (minus the sex). I loved Gene from the moment he watched Talya like a hawk as she divvied up his pills. I also loved that the same man whose presence feels like such a burden is also the same man who will sit in his room for hours, patiently waiting to be guided down sixteen steps. His war stories unfold in layers, as does Talya's life, and it's beautiful to watch the pair lean on each other in equal measure. Highly recommended.

Ruffina Oserio

Gene, Everywhere: A Life-Changing Visit from My Father-in-Law by Talya Tate Boerner is a memoir with the power to change many lives, filled with wisdom, love, and humanity. It is New Year’s Eve, 2011 when Talya invites her ninety-year-old father-in-law over. It happens that the old man also needs a place to stay. But everything is about to change and Talya's life is about to take a new turn as she interacts with the old man. Her life is going to be different and in ways she never expected.

There is so much to love in this memoir. First off, the change that happens in the house when Gene comes in affects everyone, including John, the husband of the author. With old age, Gene depends so much on medication and the narrator is afraid she might not even keep up with his prescription: Half a pill two times a day. Many people can identify with her confusion and initial worry. I have a ninety-seven-year-old mother who seems to be everything Gene is. I loved how the author begins to see her father-in-law differently. The relationship between father-in-law and the narrator deepens, and it steadily solidifies with the constant contact between the two.

The story is filled with wisdom, compassion, and love. Gene, Everywhere: A Life-Changing Visit from My Father-in-Law is a memoir that explores a unique perspective when it comes to living with the elderly. While the world continually embraces a culture of sending elderly parents to nursing homes, this memoir shows the power of love and acceptance and conveys the message that the elderly might need the young as much as the young need them. It is told in a compassionate and gripping tone and the wisdom in the story is unmistakable.

Rabia Tanveer

Gene, Everywhere: A Life-Changing Visit from My Father-In-Law by Talya Tate Boerner is a beautiful memoir and a tribute to a man who silently came into her life and gave her so much more than she expected. Talya Boerner was expecting to spend a very usual New Year’s Eve, but something changed for the better when she invited her father-in-law Gene to live with them because he needed a place to stay. It was temporary, so she didn’t even think about what having him in her home would mean. He came into her home as a meek old man who was grateful for a place to stay, but as the days went by, Talya realized how important he was. He might have been ordinary, but he was extraordinary in the quiet way he had an impact on the lives of everyone who met him.

This memoir has a special place in my heart. In my country, grandparents are an integral part of our lives. We sit down with them, have meals with them and simply enjoy their presence in our lives. Gene and his story reflect what I have known all my life: having a grandparent or aging parents in our lives enriches us. Gene is full of life; he may be a quiet man who stays on the sidelines, but even then his personality is bigger than the world. He brought out emotions in me; he made me feel sad, nostalgic and long for the days when my grandparents were alive. I enjoyed how lovingly Talya talked about her father-in-law; you can feel the genuine affection she has for Gene and how much of an impact he had on her life. The story is emotional and gives you a warm feeling. I loved every aspect of it!