Imperfect Endings

A Daughter's Tale of Life and Death

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Zoe Carter’s busy life on the West Coast with her husband and daughters takes an unexpected detour when her glamorous, independent-minded mother, Margaret, tired of living with Parkinson’s disease, decides she wants to “end things.” As Zoe and her sisters negotiate over whether or not they should support Margaret’s choice and who should be there at the end, their discussions stir up old alliances and animosities, along with memories of a childhood dominated by their elegant mother and philandering father. Capturing the stresses and the joys of the “sandwich generation” while bringing a provocative new perspective to the assisted suicide debate, Imperfect Endings is the uplifting story of a woman determined to die on her own terms and the family who has to learn to let her go.
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  • Simon & Schuster | 
  • 272 pages | 
  • ISBN 9781439154212 | 
  • March 2010
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Zoe FitzGerald Carter chats about IMPERFECT ENDINGS

Zoe Carter’s wrenching memoir about a family coming to terms with the mother’s plan, after a long and difficult illness, to commit suicide.

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JANUARY 2001

I don’t have to answer the phone. On my knees in the bathroom, daughters just settled into the tub, I have the perfect excuse to ignore it. Let the machine pick it up instead. But I push off my knees and head for the door, my brain several steps behind my body as it usually is by this time of day.

Only then do I pause, reluctant to leave the steamy warmth of the bathroom, the giddiness of my naked children who are lolling at one end of the tub, pouring water on each other. At four and eight, Lane and Clara are hardly at risk for drowning, but I remind them to be careful—keep the water... see more

Reading Group Guide

This reading group guide for Imperfect Endings includes an introduction, discussion questions, ideas for enhancing your book club, and a Q&A with author Zoe FitzGerald Carter. The suggested questions are intended to help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for your discussion. We hope that these ideas will enrich your conversation and increase your enjoyment of the book.

Introduction

Zoe FitzGerald Carter’s mother, Margaret, is a beautiful, independent-minded woman who has suffered from Parkinson’s and other ailments for over twenty years. Knowing that her future holds only further debilitation and the slow erosion of both her body and her pride, Margaret decides to “end things”—and asks her three daughters to be there with her when she does it.

For months, Margaret discusses possible means of suicide and repeatedly sets and changes her “death dates.” Zoe and her sisters begin to wonder if she is serious and, if she is, who among them is willing to take on the emotional and legal risks of being with her at the end? As the “good daughter,” Zoe wants to help her mother achieve a good death but is distraught at the prospect of losing her. Revisiting difficult scenes from her past—including memories of her larger-than-life father, her glamorous, stubborn mother, and her warring sisters—Zoe finds herself examining her own see more

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