Having first shared chapters of his family’s story while detailing his role as one of his father's caregivers via Facebook, Dan Marshall has now pieced it all together to produce a memoir titled ‘Home Is Burning.’
At a time when ‘sob-stories’ such as ‘The Fault In Our Stars’ have won over readers and film-fans (HIB is to get the big-screen treatment in the near future), Marshall has, no doubt with great difficulty, taken it upon himself to peel back the layers so many individuals and families hide behind when a tragedy strikes, and instead lay everything bare for the world to see and to read.
You wouldn’t think that a memoir about having two sick parents; a mother suffering from cancer and a father stricken by ALS (otherwise known as Lou Gehrig’s disease), would or could be funny, but, in sharing his family’s story, Marshall manages to make it so. I found myself chuckling at numerous conversations contained within it, identifying with the annoying siblings Dan argues with on a regular basis and just laughing out loud at a paragraph that recalls his mother's plan to give her husband a blow job a day: “You wouldn’t think it, but his penis is still strong.”
The dysfunctionality of the family make this memoir even more real; they fight, they bicker, they each have their own dreams, ambitions and lives that, prior to their father's illness, that they want to get back to. They each stumble (some literally) their way through the horrific ordeal that is watching someone they love die with a menagerie of painkillers (mother), fart jokes (Dan and his sister Chelsea) feuds (at one point or another, Dan and everyone bar his dad) and booze (Jessica). I suggest those sensitive to foul language and black humour don’t read this book, as both feature on almost every page, but are just two of the many things that makes it so readable.
Most people might shy away from many of the more personal aspects detailed within this book (helping your dad wash, pee etc.), but Marshall includes each and every one of them – despite how undeniably hard a time it was, he leaves little to nothing out of his story and for that, he should be highly commended.
As someone who lost a close family member to cancer just a few years ago, I was deeply moved by this book, but more importantly, I was reminded about how I still have so many loved ones around me and the fact that I never tell them I love them (honestly, I can’t remember the last time I did). If there’s one thing I will take away from this book, it’s that this memoir has made me ensure that, from now on in particular, I treasure the time I spend with my friends and most importantly, my family.
Life is precious and so many of us while away our days doing things of little importance and neglecting the things and individuals who matter. I’d urge everyone to read this book – to laugh, to understand, and even to cry as they turn each page, but most of all, to take from it the realities of life it reminds them of and how family, above all else, is what will always truly matter most.