Launchpad: The Home Stretch, by George K. Ilsley

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This spring we've made it our mission (even more than usual) to celebrate new releases in the wake of cancelled launch parties, book festivals, and reading series. With 49th Shelf Launchpad, we're holding virtual launch parties here on our platform complete with witty banter and great insight to give you a taste of the books on offer. You can request these books from your local library, get them as e-books or audio books, order them from your local indie bookseller if they're delivering, buy them direct from the publisher or from online retailers.

Today we're launching The Home Stretch: A Father, a Son, and All the Things They Never Talk About, by George K. Ilsley, which David Chariandy calls, "a wonderful book—witty, tender, and lucidly written—about the caregiving of sons and the complicated inheritances of fathers."

*****

The Elevator Pitch. Tell us about your book in a sentence.

This creative nonfiction memoir is about my relationship with my father when he was in his 90s. Over the course of nine visits to my small hometown in Nova Scotia, my father and I, each in our own way, confront the past and the present.

Describe your ideal reader.

Anyone who has ever struggled with complicated love in a dysfunctional family, and seeks to transform challenges with the magic of emotional alchemy:  shame, for example, can be turned upside-down and become self-esteem.  Someone who appreciates the nuances of films such as Laurie Anderson’s Heart of a Dog and books such as Oliver Sacks’ celebration of life, Gratitude.

What authors/books is your work in conversation with?

Elizabeth Hay’s All Things Consoled: A Daughter’s Memoir, Eve Joseph’s In the Slender Margin: The Intimate Strangeness of Death and Dying, and George Hodgman’s memoir of his mother, Bettyville.

What is something interesting you learned about your book/yourself/ your subject during the process of creating and publishing your book? 

I was surprised how much I didn’t know about my 90-year-old father, and also how much of my own emotional life from my youth was still festering inside me, buried away.

How did you manage to write such a funny book with themes of loss at its core?

My father was a strong, quirky, eccentric personality who embarrassed the hell out of me. All you can do as an adult child is learn to laugh at yourself. All I did as a writer was witness the embarrassment, and readers can relate to that.

An important part of any book launch are the thank you’s. Go ahead, and acknowledge someone whose support has been integral to this project. 

The writers David Chariandy and Matt Rader have been generous in their support. Thank you! Much of this book was written at a Buddhist retreat centre in the mountains near Whistler, B.C., and I’m very grateful for the serenity of that setting, which I hope has seeped into the text.

What are you reading right now or next? 

I’m reading Chelene Knight’s Vancouver memoir Dear Current Occupant and really enjoying the inventiveness, the intensity, and the clever, sensitive, respectful approach.

 

 

About The Home Stretch:

A moving, honest memoir about a man who returns to his rural hometown to take care of his cranky elderly father.

George K. Ilsley explores his complex relationship with his aging father in this candid memoir full of sharp emotion and disarming humour. George's father is ninety-one years old, a widower, and fiercely independent; an avid gardener, he's sweet and more than a little eccentric. But he's also a hoarder who makes embarrassing comments and invitations to women, and he has made no plans whatsoever for what is inevitably coming over the horizon.

Decades after George has moved four time zones away, he begins to make regular trips home to help care for his cranky and uncooperative father, and to sift through the hoarded fragments of his father's life. In doing so, George is forced to confront some uncomfortable family secrets and ugly personal truths, only to discover that the inexorable power of life's journey pulls everyone along in its wake.

The Home Stretch is a beguiling, moving book about aging parents who do not "go gently," and their adult children who must reckon with their own past before helping to guide them on their way.

May 19, 2020
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