Marianne Sciucco is not a nurse who writes but a writer who happens to be a nurse. A lover of words and books, she dreamed of becoming an author when she grew up but became a nurse to avoid poverty. She later brought her two passions together and writes about the intricate lives of people struggling with health and family issues. Her debut novel, Blue Hydrangeas, an Alzheimer’s love story, is a Kindle bestseller, IndieReader Approved, a BookWorks Book of the Week, a Reader’s Favorite, and winner of IndieReCon’s Best Indie Novel Award. A native Bostonian, she lives in New York’s Hudson Valley and, when not writing, works as a campus nurse at a community college. She loves books, the beach, and craft beer, and especially enjoys the three of them together.
Blue Hydrangeas, an Alzheimer’s love story by Marianne Sciucco
What if the person who knew you best and loved you most forgot your face, and couldn’t remember your name?
A nursing facility is everyone’s solution for what to do about Sara, but her husband Jack can’t bear to live without her. He is committed to saving his marriage, his wife, and their life together from the devastation of Alzheimer’s disease. He and Sara retired years ago to the house of their dreams and operated it as a Cape Cod bed and breakfast named Blue Hydrangeas. Jack has made an impossible promise: He and Sara will stay together in their beautiful home no matter what the disease brings. However, after nine years of selfless caregiving complicated by her progressing Alzheimer’s and his own failing heart, he finally admits he can no longer care for her at home. With reluctance, he arranges to admit her to an assisted living facility. But on the day of admission, Sara is having one of her few good days and he is unable to follow through. Instead, he takes them on an impulsive journey to confront their past and reclaim their future. In the end, he realizes that staying together at any cost is what truly matters.
One day at work as a hospital case manager, I met a fascinating couple who were in their 80’s. She was a lovely woman, so pretty, and had Alzheimer’s. I’d ask her a question and she’d try to answer, but then say, “Oh, I’m so mixed up,” and laugh, quite charming. Her husband was frail, an amiable sort of guy, and devoted to her. My job was to assist with the discharge plan, which was for her to go to a local nursing home for rehab (she’d broken her pelvis) the next day. I discussed the arrangements with her and her husband. Their son was also present, and he told me to make sure his parents didn’t leave the hospital without him; he planned to drive them to the nursing home and assist with the admissions process. Later on, I couldn’t stop thinking about that couple, wondering what would happen if they left the hospital without their son. Where would they go? What would they do? Thus, the seeds of Blue Hydrangeas were sown, my wild writer’s imagination took off, and the story began to grow.
I worked on this book eleven years. It sounds crazy, I know, but after I finished what I thought was the final draft and sent it out into the literary market place with no takers, I continued to tweak it, cutting scenes, adding others. In the midst of all this, I developed repetitive strain injuries from an inappropriate computer workstation at my job, and everything just stopped. I could no longer write. I put everything aside for a couple of years. But the story haunted me, and when I was able to I continued to revise and rework the manuscript. Two years ago a friend suggested I publish on Kindle and I figured I had nothing to lose. It took me a year to prepare and publish the book. My book is unique because there aren’t many novels about Alzheimer’s, although 5.5 million people are suffering from it right now.
An interview with Marianne Sciucco, author of Blue Hydrangeas, an Alzheimer’s love story
Here’s an excerpt from Blue Hydrangeas.
Sara has had an accident and is in the hospital.
After dining on the cafeteria’s daily special, Jack returned to his wife, now sleeping peacefully, her face devoid of any stress. Jack stared at her for a long while, seeing vestiges of a young Sara, remembering the first time he had seen her fifty-seven years ago. Sara was nineteen, a blue-eyed beauty with rich auburn hair and tiny freckles splashed across her tiny nose. The face he saw now was older and well seasoned, but at seventy-six she was still a beauty.
The auburn hair had turned snow white and covered her shoulders like a silken shawl. Her blue eyes still sparkled like jewels, but now tiny lines framed them. He smiled, thinking of how she lamented those wrinkles, blaming herself, a redhead living her life in the sun. She had taken care, but her love for the outdoors, the ocean, and her gardens had gotten the better of her. Jack thought the wrinkles added character, a testament to a life well lived.
Her hands, though, revealed the most about her. Once as soft as rose petals, they had become calloused and worn by her life’s work. As a commercial artist, she had dipped them into oil paint and turpentine for decades. And, when her hands were not commanding a paintbrush they had dug deep into the earth, creating a spectacular garden that reaped awards from gardening groups throughout New England.
Jack loved those hands, and held both of them in his own. Over the years, he had lavished her with exquisite jewelry, but these days she wore one simple gold band on her wedding finger, delicately inscribed with the words: “Always, my love. Jack.” He stroked the ring, gazing at her with a mixture of love and grief. The last nine years had been tough and promised to get tougher. He sensed change, and loss, and death ahead and it filled him with fear deeper than he had ever known. The realization that one of them would die, would leave the other, paralyzed him. How could he live without her? What would she do without him?
“Oh, Sara,” he whispered, a catch in his throat. Tears formed in his eyes and he brushed them away. He did not know whom he pitied more: Sara or himself.
He pulled away from her bedside and went home to call their son.
Blue Hydrangeas is available in paperback, audiobook and ebook at these and other online booksellers.