"For Better, For Worse: Patient in the Maelstrom" by Carolyn Perry; Sunbury Press; 210 pages
Carolyn Perry’s "For Better, For Worse: Patient in the Maelstrom" is out in an anniversary edition with a 2020 afterword by the author.
The book was updated by Perry while she was hunkered down in her French Quarter home for yet another potentially devastating storm. Perry may be easily spooked at the idea of another inundation and, given what she experienced in that last one, it’s understandable. Yet she is firmly committed to her life in the Quarter in the historic cottage she and her husband, Bob, renovated and lived in during the months prior to Hurricane Katrina.
Those of us who love New Orleans know there’s been some good news since Katrina — rebuilt levees, for one — and some not so good — the rebuilt levees might not be strong enough to hold back the storms now blowing up in the Gulf of Mexico.
Perry’s story looks back to those last days of Bob’s life in 2005 and the simultaneous approach and arrival of Hurricane Katrina. It’s a gripping tale: that fatal trip to Baptist Memorial and Perry’s role as caregiver during those harrowing, unforgettable days in a darkened hospital with an overwhelmed staff and no coordinated emergency plan. These were followed by a difficult evacuation, first to a hospital in Thibodaux, then finally to Dallas.
The story is one of disruption that ends in irrevocable loss, yet it’s overlaid with the moving tale of a couple whose lives, as Bob said, were woven together. The two were a good match: compatible travelers, intellectually curious, kindly, devoted and happy with the lives they’d made. In Bob’s final days, they dreamed of a future after the passing of the crisis.
“Do you really think I’ll see Windermere again?” Bob asked.
“I know you will,” answered the woman he called Brenda Starr, Girl Reporter.
Today, sitting under the sweet olive tree in her courtyard, Perry relishes the sounds of the Quarter: the laughter of her neighbors, the tuba player passing on the street, the clops of mule-drawn buggies. She has an indomitable spirit you can’t help but admire.
Highly recommended, this is the kind of work that you will think about and want to share long after you’ve read it. It’s available from your local bookseller and is a story not to be missed.