A Stranger in My Recliner: My Review
It’s below freezing outside and you are wandering the streets because you have no place to go and no one that care about you or will take you in. The system of services cannot find you because you do not have an address so where are they going to send your checks? Wandering the streets you have one favorite hangout, McDonalds where you and some of your other friends stay until closing time when you have to find a place to sleep outside where you won’t get mugged or injured. But, people walk by you seeing you sitting on the sidewalk, covered with newspapers or a thread-born coat just stares at you and walk the other way. You eyes are clear; your face is alert yet many think you are not mentally stable. No one knows your story nor do they care to know it. What happens to so many of these people that are homeless and do not want to go to shelters, whose families just up and left them to fend for themselves and one special lady named Sophie who became the Stranger in John and Doreen’s recliner. This is a true story of compassion, understanding, love and hope for one 80-year-old woman. As you hear Doreen, our narrator telling the story you will cry, scream, laugh and wonder just what these agencies that are supposed to help are doing and why they don’t seem to quite get it. With all of her heart, with all of her resentment at times and fears, what happens with Sophie will warm your heart, fill your eyes with tears and bring a special smile to your face and love for both John and Doreen. As John was driving home one day and found Sophie sitting on the sidewalk outside and called Doreen asking to bring her home. What would you do if you were Doreen? How can you open your home and heart to a complete stranger? This is a story that everyone needs to read.
The voices heard are Sophie’s and Doreen’s as the emotions vary yet are the same. Each frustrated and angry over their situations and Doreen helpless at times not knowing how to make this stranger feel comfortable and safe. Doreen’s fears, upsets and emotional upheavals are apparent when she asks Sophie to join her and her family on trips that would lighten her burden and make her part of their lives. Her children and grandchildren are accepting to a point but Sophie’s fears and the remembrances of her own children that cast her aside cause a barrier to come up and she can’t seem to let it down. The author’s research is quite extensive into the homeless, the bureaucratic agencies and their lack of support of help.
John is supportive and there for her but basically it is all on Doreen. Even getting two precious dogs and asking Sophie to care for them while she is away put a strain on her during their vacation. Sophie’s anger seemed bottled up and when asked to provide medical documents or anything else the amount of time she took was insurmountable. When Doreen finally went through her ratty bag what she found was information to help her sort out some of her family and medical issues and taking her shopping and in her car other landmarks became apparent. Sophie is definitely ill and needs a doctor but does she have something terminal or are her outbursts and memory problems Dementia/Alzheimer’s? As the story progresses the author includes pictures of Sophie, memories that she had, a photo of where John found her and some pictures of Doreen’s grandchildren that she identified with and more. Added in we learn about her children, her marriages, the abuse she went through and other people in her life wondering what is reality and what if not.
Doreen sites many laws, statues and different places that she researched and visited to learn more about the rights of the homeless and mentally ill that readers need to read for themselves to understand the gravity of the situation and how far she went to learn more about the system and why is often fails so many. Do you realize that if someone is mentally ill and feels they are not they cannot be committed? She cared for Sophie and learning more about her family makes you wonder what kind of fiber they were made of. She also shared with Doreen about the life living in the woods, the people that beat her up and her trip to her primary doctor who missed something grave. Taking her to live in Fair Acres was one of the hardest decisions she and John had to make but much safer and better for Sophie as it was taking its toll on both of them. Added in we learn about the new cases the author was given and the deplorable conditions some patients lived in because of lack of care.
There are many resources that are listed and the volume of information is vast as we learn more about Sophie’s life, and Doreen contacting her son Billy and her two friends Lisa and Bob. Both Lisa and Bob filled in much of what she did not know along with the fact that Lisa allowed her to use her address to get her mail. Friendships are tested. A marriage was made stronger and a woman named Sophie was granted three years of life because two people could not stand to see her all alone. Understanding that she spoke like a little child at times and feared doctors for a reason Sophie’s voice is heard loud and clear as you wonder if she did not bury herself within a protective shell so she would not get hurt. This is a powerful book that needs to be placed in every library, every hospital library, nursing home and for caregivers to understand what needs to be done to help the homeless and those that cannot care for themselves. What they did in Utah to help the homeless by giving them housing and much more is commendable and should happen everywhere else. To Doreen thank you for giving me the honor or reviewing this title and for making Sophie a part of my life too. The pictures helped me get to know her better and the story is one that needs to be told over and over again. I know that at times you think that you did the wrong thing but Doreen you and John gave an older woman her life back in some way for three years. The blue recliner that she loved and thought of as her safety net I hope that you still have as a remembrance.
Let’s dedicate this to Sophie and all those homeless people that deserve our love, kindness, help and understanding. The next time you see someone sitting alone on the street do not walk by them with distain remember: IT COULD BE YOU!
Fran Lewis: Just reviews/MJ Magazine
Let’s give this book FIVE GOLDEN BLUE RECLINERS IN MEMORY OF SOPHIE