Victories Never Last : Reading and Caregiving in a Time of Plague
A timely and nuanced book that sets the author's experience as a nursing home volunteer during the pandemic alongside the wisdom of five great thinkers who confronted their own plagues. In any time of disruption, grief, or uncertainty, many of us seek comfort or wisdom in the work of great writers who endured similar circumstances. During the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic, historian and biographer Robert Zaretsky did much the same while also working as a volunteer in a nursing home in south Texas. When not caring for those isolated by the health crisis, he turned to great novelists, essayists, and historians of the past to help him make sense of his experiences at the residence and the emotional and physical enormity of the pandemic. In Victories Never Last Zaretsky weaves his reflections on the pandemic siege of his nursing home with the experiences of six writers during their own times of plague: Thucydides, Marcus Aurelius, Michel de Montaigne, Daniel Defoe, Mary Shelley, and Albert Camus, whose The Plague provides the title of this book. Zaretsky delves into these writers to uncover lessons that can provide deeper insight into our pandemic era. At the same time, he goes beyond the literature to invoke his own experience of the tragedy that enveloped his Texas nursing home, one which first took the form of chronic loneliness and then, inevitably, the deaths of many residents whom we come to know through Zaretsky's stories. In doing so, Zaretsky shows the power of great literature to connect directly to one's own life in a different moment and time. For all of us still struggling to comprehend this pandemic and its toll, Zaretsky serves as a thoughtful and down-to-earth guide to the many ways we can come to know and make peace with human suffering.