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An Interview with Susan Morse (Page 1 of 4)

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An Interview with Susan Morse


Susan MorseFrom the time she was conceived, Susan Morse was her mother’s “special” child. Now she finds herself as part of the sandwich generation, responsible for a woman whose 85 years have been single-mindedly devoted to identifying “The Answer to Everything.” This week’s Answer looks like it may be the real thing. Susan’s mother is becoming a nun. The Habit, Susan Morse’s fresh and funny new memoir, offers readers a look at a mother-daughter relationship that is both universal and unique.

With three soon-to-be-college-bound kids, a busy television/movie/Broadway actor husband, David Morse (St. Elsewhere, House, The Hurt Locker), and menopause kicking in, Morse, at age 48, already has her hands full. Her father has passed and her siblings live far away, so her mother’s cancer diagnosis and need for extensive surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy mean Morse must become her caregiver and patient advocate. The job, akin to herding a cat in a darkened maze, is given the serious name it deserves: “Operation Ma.”

Susan Morse was educated at Williams College and has worked as an actress in L.A. and New York. She now lives in Philadelphia with her husband and their three children. She has edited fiction, although this book is nonfiction. “Mostly,” she promises.

Gary Barg: I have to tell you, Susan, I love that you open the book with the phrase, “Nobody dies at the end of this book.”  I just thought, with all the caregiving books I have read, and wonderful books, too, that’s just so refreshing. Thank you for that.

Susan Morse: When I started writing the book, we were in the middle of a terrible health crisis and there was no given that my mother wouldn’t die before I could finish the book.  That was the question everybody kept asking me when I said, “We’re going through this thing and I’m writing a book about it.”  They’d say, “Well, are you going to wait until she dies to finish the book?” And I kept thinking, well, we’re just going to keep going on and see what happens.  She recovered from her health crisis quite fine and I was definitely ready to wrap up the book. I just thought, this is perfect because she’ll get to be there for the aftermath and enjoy all the fun of having everybody read it, which has been great for both of us. 

Gary Barg: How did writing the book bring the rest of your family together? 

Susan Morse: We were already trying to rally together because we had this health crisis. I was emailing my siblings as we went along because I was the point person on site with her. I had one sibling in another country and everybody else was a good distance from where we were living.  As we realized we were dealing with something serious, I began to send them emailed updates after a long day at the doctor or the hospital, whatever we were doing.  You don’t really want to make a phone call because you’re tired, so you just try to get as much information as possible into an email.  We’re very lucky to have email.


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