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FICTION : WEST OF THE MOON by Jonathan Nasaw (Franklin Watts: $16.95; 224 pp.).

November 01, 1987|Betty Lukas

If you were the mother of a 5-year-old boy who had cancer and absolutely no hope of recovering, what would you do? Would you expose his wasting body to the latest experiments or would you run away with him to a hospice in the redwoods? Tough question, especially when you're not married to the boy's father, who keeps trying to get a court order to take the child away from you, and especially since your own emotional and financial fuel are running on empty. But then you meet Tom Straw, a gangly, sensitive, one-legged ex-medic who works as a nurse at a San Francisco hospice called Casa de Vida, and life suddenly has a rudder. Although the primary characters--except for young Danny--are disappointingly unengaging, author Jonathan Krasaw gives a wonderfully detailed and dimensional description of hospice life--and death. Indeed, the tenderness and compassion of the hospice directors and their assistants bring tears to your eyes. But it is Danny who is regularly the wise one on these pages, and only we know what he's thinking: "Don't cry. I remember: Follow the light. I remember."

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