I Found My Tribe-a book review

In this memoir Ruth sways from the complexities of her life to the mundane, from acting stoic to distraught, from feeling in control to helpless; we feel what she feels as she navigates her fragile existence, torn between love for her husband but longing for him to be truly present in her life.

I Found My Tribe

a memoir by Ruth Fitzmaurice

According to several definitions, a tribe is a group of people who share a common culture, linked by language, customs, traditions, geography, and often ancestry.

The author, Ruth Fitzmaurice, had two tribes that fit these descriptions. One was her family consisting of her filmmaker husband Simon and their five children. The other was her friends-specifically those friends who share a common culture- women whose husbands have serious chronic, disabling illnesses or injuries.

Her husband Simon Fitzmaurice developed motor neuron disease, called MND in the book. Besides Ireland (the Republic) they also lived in Australia and England before settling permanently in Greystones, Co. Wicklow, on the east coast of Ireland, on the Irish Sea.

Image by Klaus Hausmann from Pixabay

Other Americans may be as ignorant about Irish geography as I am. They will recognize MND by another name, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, ALS, the motor neuron disease that bears the name of a famous victim, American baseball player Lou Gehrig.

Tragic Wives Swimming Club

Swimming is one of Ruth’s favorite ways to cope with the stress of caring for her children and husband, and since her friends swim with her, she calls her tribe the Tragic Wives’ Swimming Club. But these are no leisurely swims at the local YWCA. No these are nighttime swims in the cold and choppy waters in an Irish Sea cove at Greystones.

“There is a secret society of the hurt. We harbour pain skilfully under smiles. Observe a subtle strain behind the eyes. A certain tension in the jaw muscles. We gather on a stony beach that may as well be a deserted car park. We swap pain silently like illegal contraband.”

Image by Fred T. from Pixabay

In this memoir Ruth sways from the complexities of her life to the mundane, from acting stoic to distraught, from feeling in control to helpless; we feel what she feels as she navigates her fragile existence, torn between love for her husband but longing for him to be truly present in her life. Even her children say they wish their real dad was there, all the while loving him as he is.

Ruth does not explain the Irish healthcare system which according to my research is a public-private system, different than Americans have. Ruth just tells us about the regular assortment of home health nurses, therapists, social workers , and caregivers assigned to Simon, some of whom more satisfactory than others. In a comparable situation Americans might envy such entitlement, but Ruth makes clear it comes at a cost-loss of privacy and autonomy.

“Illness by its nature is disorderly. A public system swoops in to serve and take good care. Doesn’t it? They are all super nice and speak in loud voices. Meetings are very important to them. …Plans must be written down. It’s called a Care Plan. I may sound bitter but mostly I feel bemused.”

Image by KiraHundeDog from Pixabay

Although Simon died in 2017 (having written his own memoir) , Ruth’s book doesn’t end there, it really doesn’t end. She didn’t tell her story chronologically, because it isn’t so much a narrative as it is a catharsis- how she reacted, felt, and coped with her unexpected life. After reading it, I left wanting to know more about this woman and her family and am glad to know there is more to her story.

“Some good days at the cove start off feeling bad. It’s warmer than we thought and nobody else is here. This beach is ours. We will collect stones for Dadda (Simon). I only wish we could hand the whole cove to Simon so he could put it in his pocket. It starts lashing rain…we are whooping and laughing and climbing and swimming. Sorry souls do what they can to survive, so just go with it. I dare you.”    

Follow this link to watch a video of Ruth, listen to her read from the book, and read an excerpt.

I found my tribe at the cove in Greystones

My house is full of strangers because my husband has motor neuron disease, but my secret all-year swim club saves me


The photos in this post are from Pixabay for illustration only, not affiliated with the author or the book.

I received a complimentary ebook of this title from NetGalley in exchange for reading and writing a review. My reviews also appear on the site as well as Amazon and Barnes and Noble. This blog post has affiliate links.

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Perhaps I will also read Simon’s memoir someday.

It’s Not Yet Dark: A Memoir

a memoir by Simon Fitzmaurice

Despite the loss of almost all motor function, thanks to miraculous technology, he continued to work, raise his five children, and write this astonishing memoir. It’s Not Yet Dark is a journey into a life that, though brutally compromised, was lived more fully than most, revealing the potent power of love, of art, and of the human spirit.

Written using an eye-gaze computer, this is an unforgettable book about relationships and family, about what connects and separates us as people, and, ultimately, about what it means to be alive. (from Amazon)

What is motor neuron disease?

The motor neuron diseases (MNDs) are a group of progressive neurological disorders that destroy motor neurons, the cells that control skeletal muscle activity such as walking, breathing, speaking, and swallowing. This group includes diseases such as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, progressive bulbar palsy, primary lateral sclerosis, progressive muscular atrophy, spinal muscular atrophy, Kennedy’s disease, and post-polio syndrome. More information at

Motor Neuron Diseases Factsheet

exploring the HEART of health in books

I appreciate all of you who are following Watercress Words, and if you aren’t I invite you to join the wonderful people who are. You can meet some of them in the sidebar, where you can click on their image and visit their blogs. Use the form to get an email notification of new posts. Don’t worry, you won’t get anything else from me.

And please share this post to your friends and followers and invite them to follow too. It’s more fun to explore together.

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Dr Aletha

Dr Jane Goodall-messenger of hope

Dr. Goodall recommends buying locally grown, organic foods exclusively. She advocates a meat free diet. She urges us to waste less. She believes we need to “take back food productions from large corporations.”  By doing so, we will be healthier and so will our planet.

Dr. Jane Goodall, an Inspiring Woman

  • The Barbie Inspiring Women Series honors ethologist and activist Dr. Jane Goodall, DBE, founder of the Jane Goodall Institute (more at janegoodall.org), with a collectible Barbie doll made from recycled materials.
  • Dr. Jane Goodall Barbie doll comes equipped with a notebook and pair of binoculars and wears field attire featuring a khaki shirt, shorts and boots.
  • This collectible doll is joined by a figure inspired by one of her most famous subjects, chimpanzee David Graybeard.
  • Dr. Jane Goodall Barbie doll is the first in the Inspiring Women Series to be made from recycled materials.
  • This celebration of Dr. Jane Goodall’s decades of dedication, ground-breaking research and heroic achievements makes a great gift for collectors and kids ages 6 years old and up.

(This post and the ones linked to contain affiliate links that may pay a small commission to this blog, while you pay nothing extra. Quite a deal. )

In the Shadow of Man-and chimpanzees

In 1960,26 year old Jane Goodall went to Tanzania to study chimpanzees. No one had studied chimps before, so little was known about their behavior in the wild. Biologically and genetically, chimps are closer to humans than any other animal, so scientists believed understanding their behavior could shed light on some aspects of human behavior.

Jane roamed the forests of the Gombe Stream Chimpanze Reserve in Tanzania watching the chimps first with binoculars then with direct observation at close range, even occasionally close enough to touch them. Her mother Vanne lived with her and a photographer Hugo van Lawick joined them.

Working together with nature and animals as their common interest,Jane and Hugo fell in love and married. Eventually she had a staff of research assistants and students involved in observation and reporting about the chimps and other animals.

Title page of the book I bought at a used book sale.

In this book, written 10 years later (and periodically updated; my copy was revised in 1988.) Dr. Goodall details her years of living among the chimps and her detailed observations and conclusions about their behavior. (For which she earned her doctorate degree.)

“like humans, chimpanzees are omnivores, feeding on vegetables, insects, and meat.”

Dr Goodall

Harvest for Hope-A Guide to Mindful Eating

Jane Goodall is just as interested in people as she is chimpanzees. Despite the title this book is not about dining while listening to soothing music by candlelight to relax and de-stress.

Jane Goodall wants us to manage stress , not so much our own, but the stress of our planet, by producing, transporting, preparing, and eating our food in ways less harmful and wasteful to us and our planet.

Our food choices effect the environment as much as the environment effects our diet

Goodall reflected back on her life as a child in England , when her family’s food supply was limited by the shortages of a world war. Even in peacetime, they ate what was grown locally and seasonally, rather than food flown in from distant lands. Her nutrition ideas are not new or unique, but she helps us realize our food choices effect the environment as much as the environment effects our diet.

Dr. Goodall recommends buying locally grown, organic foods exclusively. She advocates a meat free diet. She urges us to waste less. She believes we need to “take back food productions from large corporations.”  By doing so, we will be healthier and so will our planet.

Dr. Jane advocates humans avoid

  • GMO (genetically modified organism) foods
  • meat
  • imported food
  • bottled water
  • fast food
  • refined processed carbs
  • concentrated and synthetic sweeteners
  • commercial oils

Dr. Jane encourages us to

  • Take back food production from large corporations
  • Waste less.
  • Use a filter for drinking water
  • Eat organic locally grown food.
  • Eat fruits, vegetables, legumes
  • Use olive oil, herbs, seasonings

Dr. Goodall’s advocacy in a pandemic

In this July 3, 2020 interview with CBS News she said ,

we brought this on ourselves… the scientists that have been studying these .. zoonotic diseases ( jump from an animal to a human) have been predicting …this. As we chop down at stake tropical rainforest, We’re driving deeper and deeper, making roads throughout the habitat, which … brings people and animals in contact with each other.

People are hunting the animals and selling the meat, or trafficking the infants, and all of this is creating environments which are perfect for a virus or a bacteria to cross that species barrier and sometimes, like COVID-19, it becomes very contagious and we’re suffering from it. 

Prior to the onset of the pandemic, Dr. Goodall averaged travelling 300 days per year on behalf of the Jane Goodall Institute teaching, lecturing, and advocating for care of our environment. COVID-19 stopped the travel, but not her work.

From March 2020, instead of traversing the globe, she brought the world to her family home in Bournemouth England . From her small attic bedroom filled with momentos of her travels, books, old photos, and the single bed she sleeps on, she gave interviews and lectures by video on her laptop.

She planned to begin travelling again in 2022 but not the intense schedule pre-pandemic; she can reach more people online. According to an interview in TIME, she will “spread hope and inspire people for as long as she can, for the sake of future generations.”

At 87, one never knows quite what the future holds. I’m about to leave the world, and leave it behind me with all the mess. Young people have to grow up into it. They need everybit of help they can”

Dr. Goodall, TIME, October 11/18, 2021

a final thought about pandemics

But we know if we don’t stop destroying the environment and disrespecting animals — we’re hunting them, killing them, eating them; there will be another one. It’s inevitable.

Dr. Jane Goodall

Dr. Goodall’s latest book is

The Book of Hope: A Survival Guide for Trying Times (Global Icons Series) 

In The Book of Hope, Dr. Jane focuses on her “Four Reasons for Hope”:

  • The Amazing Human Intellect,
  • The Resilience of Nature,
  • The Power of Young People, and
  • The Indomitable Human Spirit.

Looking at the headlines―the worsening climate crisis, a global pandemic, loss of biodiversity, political upheaval―it can be hard to feel optimistic. And yet hope has never been more desperately needed.

In this urgent book, Jane Goodall, the world’s most famous living naturalist, and Douglas Abrams, the internationally bestselling co-author of The Book of Joy, explore through intimate and thought-provoking dialogue one of the most sought after and least understood elements of human nature: hope.

The Book of Hope touches on vital questions, including: How do we stay hopeful when everything seems hopeless? How do we cultivate hope in our children? What is the relationship between hope and action?

Filled with moving and inspirational stories and photographs from Jane’s remarkable career, The Book of Hope is a deeply personal conversation with one of the most beloved figures in the world today.

While discussing the experiences that shaped her discoveries and beliefs, Jane tells the story of how she became a messenger of hope, from living through World War II to her years in Gombe to realizing she had to leave the forest to travel the world in her role as an advocate for environmental justice. And for the first time, she shares her profound revelations about her next, and perhaps final, adventure. (an Amazon affiliate link)

exploring the HEART of health for people and the planet

I appreciate all of you who are following Watercress Words, and if you aren’t I invite you to join the wonderful people who are. You can meet some of them in the sidebar, where you can click on their image and visit their blogs. Use the form to get an email notification of new posts. Don’t worry, you won’t get anything else from me.

a world globe with two crossed bandaids

Doctor Aletha

Before you leave, read about another Inspiring Woman

Our Auntie Rosa-how her family remembers Rosa McCauley Parks

She travelled all over the world meeting with world leaders, including the Pope. The U.S. Capitol Building’s Statuary Hall holds a statue of her. The Postal Service issued a stamp with her likeness. Grand Rapids Michigan named a park after her. But to her large, loving family, she was simply Our Auntie Rosa.

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