Omega Farm: A Memoir

Scribner. Sept. 2023. 320p. ISBN 9781982197995. $28. MEMOIR
Award-winning novelist McPhee (fiction, Hofstra Univ.; An Elegant Woman) recalls her decision to decamp to a New Jersey farm during the COVID quarantine in early 2020. That’s the same place she spent her childhood years. Concern for her mother, whose dementia was worsening, also prompted her return. The author undertakes maintenance of the farm, including forest management, which proves to be no small task. Attending to her mother provokes memories and an assessment of family dynamics. For example, when McPhee was 11 years old, she sought solace in her parents’ bed after a bad dream and woke up to find herself being molested by her magnetic stepfather. She eventually confronts the abuse head-on, yet never receives a satisfying reckoning with her parents. The book also depicts an incident in which McPhee had a falling out with her mother’s caregiver, but she accepts full responsibility for it and acknowledges that the emotional toll dementia takes on immediate and ancillary caregivers can lead to burnout and displaced anger.
VERDICT A great addition to the memoir trend of capturing emotional moments experienced during the COVID lockdown. This account demonstrates the reverberating consequences of an epidemic that caused many families to make stressful choices.
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