The Pianist's Only Daughter

A Memoir

Non-Fiction - Memoir
241 Pages
Reviewed on 01/20/2024
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Author Biography

First-time memoirist Kathryn Betts Adams, MSW, PhD grew up in St. Paul. Minnesota and now lives in West Hartford, Connecticut. After a decade of clinical social work practice in mental health, nursing home, and substance abuse settings, she served on the faculty of Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio, where she taught social work practice with adults and older adults and received tenure in 2011. She has published over 40 research papers about family caregiving, geriatric depression, loneliness, and other aging-related topics. In recent years, while caring for her parents, she has written popular essays about aging and caregiving and her memoir, The Pianist's Only Daughter. Kathryn and her scientist husband have two grown children, one grandson, and two cats.

    Book Review

Reviewed by Jamie Michele for Readers' Favorite

The Pianist's Only Daughter by Kathryn Betts Adams is a memoir that chronicles the author's life and, most poignantly, her role as a caregiver to both her ailing parents. Adams describes an upbringing in the 1960s and 1970s that teeters between her parents' talents and their tumultuous relationship. As Adams is trying to carve a career of her own, she becomes a caregiver when her mother is diagnosed with Parkinson's disease. From here, the slope just gets slipperier, with hurdles including her father's remarriage, his wife's affair, and Adams ultimately assuming a therapeutic role for her distraught father. Despite successful reconciliation and the management of various health crises, unexpected turns, such as her father's reckless actions and the financial strain of long-term care, test Adams' resilience. As one parent advances to hospice care, the other's is intensified, adding fuel to the already blazing fire of Adams' caregiving journey.

As someone who was on a caregiving journey myself, I feel bad thinking that I had it rough given that, after reading The Pianist's Only Daughter by Kathryn Betts Adams, it turns out I had the Disneyland version out of all possible experiences that a daughter-turned-carer might have. Adams keeps her humor and wits about her, and it's a superpower that becomes more and more convincing as the reader plows through the story. I almost lost it emotionally during a scene where Adams uses symbolic imagery that was especially touching to me—a view from the rehabilitation center window overlooking flowers and plants, with descriptions of the bougainvillea and bird of paradise flowers as symbolic connections to her mother's gardening past and her identity. There were other moments where I laughed, cried, raged, and laughed again. Adams writes with a refreshing candor that strikes a reader as wholly authentic, and with a clear voice and a rollercoaster of a story to tell, she's someone I would be happy to listen to a whole lot more going forward. Very highly recommended.

VL Crawford

Wonderful review of a book we didn't know we need -- but anyone living with aging can benefit from the author's candor & even keel.