Montpelier Tomorrow

Fiction - Drama
318 Pages
Reviewed on 11/03/2014
Buy on Amazon

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Author Biography

Marylee MacDonald is a former carpenter with an M.A. in Creative Writing. Her novel, MONTPELIER TOMORROW was published by ATTM Press in 2014. THE RUG BAZAAR, winner of the Jeanne M. Leiby Memorial Chapbook Award, will be published in 2015. Also in 2015, she will have a short story collection, BONDS OF LOVE & BLOOD, published by Summertime Publications. MacDonald's stories have won Illinois Arts Council Awards as well as the Barry Hannah Prize, the Rash Award, the Matt Clark Prize, and the ALR Fiction Prize. Her stories have appeared in American Literary Review, Bellevue Literary Review, Blue Moon Literary & Art Review, Folio, New Delta Review, North Atlantic Review, Raven Chronicles, Reunion, River Oak Review, Ruminate, StoryQuarterly, The Briar Cliff Review, The Broad River Review, The Yalobusha Review, and others.

    Book Review

Reviewed by Patricia Day for Readers' Favorite

Montpelier Tomorrow by Marylee MacDonald is a well-written and comprehensive account of the family struggles that ensue when one member is diagnosed with ALS. You will meet Sandy and Tony, a young couple and parents to little Josh and baby Ben. Their world is shattered when Tony is diagnosed with ALS. How to cope is the number one question. Sandy’s mother, Colleen, bravely steps in to help however she can. She does not realize the toll it will take on her as the disease not only ravages Tony, but threatens the well-being and the sanity of everyone around him too; hers included. However, she resists the temptation to give up. She is there for the long haul, no matter what. Her love for Sandy and for Tony – a beloved son-in-law - will not allow her to wallow in self-pity.

With the aid of friends, support workers and extended family, they are occasionally relieved of the all-consuming exhaustion that the demands Tony's deterioration brings, as well as the growing tension of worry and stress. One close friend even gives up his home to give them a much-needed break from their distressing everyday burdens. The story continues with clarity and understanding until a completely unexpected event throws all of their beleaguered routine into disarray.

How they face this and how Tony’s condition is eased with drugs and therapy makes for thought-provoking reading. It took me along a road I hope I never have to travel. Not necessarily an easy read, but one that will cause you to thank your lucky stars it is not your life. The author must have done a great deal of research into this topic in order to write such an informative book. A good read - even if I did feel exhausted as I reached the last page. Well done.

Cheryl E. Rodriguez

Montpelier Tomorrow portrays the depths of maternal love. Marylee MacDonald captures the essence of motherhood in the character of Colleen. Colleen is a widow, a mother and a kindergarten teacher. After the loss of her husband, Colleen became the cornerstone of her family. This becomes all too obvious when her son-in-law, Tony, is diagnosed with ALS. The disease progresses quickly, causing a tumultuous family crisis. Everyone looks to Colleen to keep them going. Putting her life on hold, Colleen moves in to care for Tony and her grandsons, while her daughter, Sandy, works. Exhausted and burdened, Colleen deals with the never-ending list of daily tasks. Searching for tranquil moments, memories of the past capture her thoughts, defending the approach of the grim reaper. Yet the disease takes its toll on them all, the “air seemed freighted with death.” All Colleen wanted was to help, to be there for her daughter, but Sandy rejected her. None the less, the “vigilance of motherhood never turned off,” even when death tested them all.

Marylee MacDonald paints a portrait of family in her novel, Montpelier Tomorrow. It challenges its reader with the question: How do you go on with life, when death draws near? MacDonald uses profound word illustrations to set the scene and the tone of her narrative. Written in first person, the protagonist, Colleen, tells the story from her perspective. Death is the antagonist; its haunting presence lurks across the pages. Each character is written with specificity and each deals with death in a unique manner, revealing their personalities. The character of Colleen was portrayed genuinely. Her open loving heart, her generosity, her fears and her burdens were felt by the reader. At times, flashbacks were used, intensifying the plot and postponing the inevitable. As the novel moves to its turning point, an unforeseen crisis occurs - spiraling the characters into the falling action and thus proving life isn’t what it seems. Montpelier Tomorrow portrays real issues of life; it exposes the multi-layers of human conflict and the heroism of motherhood.

Mamta Madhavan

Montpelier Tomorrow by Marylee MacDonald is a compelling story that explores the emotional aspects of human relationships. The story is narrated from the point of view of Colleen Gallagher who arrives to help her daughter, Sandy, in Washington, DC, with her second son's delivery. Her son-in-law, Tony, is diagnosed with ALS just about when the second child is going to be born. ALS changes people and Colleen realizes the difficulties of handling a situation like that. The story pulls you into the daily lives of this crumbling family which is going through a major upheaval. The story is a compassionate account of the life of a dying man and the problematic relationship between a mother and a daughter.

The plot has many layers to it and the story is intense, honest and heart wrenching. The story and the characters are real and readers can relate to them easily, making the book a poignant read. There are a lot of nuances and complexities in the characters, and the emotions they undergo will keep readers glued to the book. It also throws light on a family coping with someone who has a degenerative disease and who is dying.

There is a lot of clarity in the author's writing when she speaks about Tony's illness, Sandy's struggles as a career woman, wife and mother, and Colleen's time as a caretaker and mother in the family. It is an amazing story of a family going through hard times, with each one trying to keep things going under difficult circumstances.