Prepare for Departure: Notes on a single mother, a misfit son, inevitable mortality and the enduring allure of frequent flyer miles by Mark Chesnut

Coming to terms with the deterioration of the health, both physical and mental of an elderly parent is bound to be a difficult and moving story to relate and Mark Chesnut tells his and that of his mother, Eunice with humour and emotion.

I loved this book.

The memoir switches between Chesnut moving his mother into her new home close to his apartment in New York and his remembrances of his life with her when he was younger. As a single mother and with a much older sister already reaching maturity, Chesnut’s relationship with his mother is close and you get the sense of them being a team, which carries on into her less aware days spent in the nursing home. But as with all relationships, it is not always smooth running.

As well as being a memoir, this is a coming-of-age book where Chesnut relates incidences from his past in relation to the discovery of himself and his sexuality and the normal rites of passage that young people experience in terms of establishing their identity and recognising their passions. This is all done with humour and a lightness of tone but the tales from his past are not trite or lacking seriousness; in fact, he discusses his thoughts and feelings with honesty as well as philosophising about his mother and her attitude towards his coming out.

There was much to love in this book: the obsession with airlines and the acquiring of memorabilia; the warmth of visiting his Pop and the cross country road trips with his mum that sparks his love of travel; the words of wisdom that his mother has shared with Chesnut throughout life which he lists in the book and which provide an insight into a way of thinking about manners and courtesy to others that evokes a different era, one to which Eunice very much belongs.

As a man who writes for a living, you would expect this book to be written well and it was. I flew through it, chuckling at times, tearing up at others. A really good read.

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