Skip to main content

Living in the Land of Limbo
Fiction and Poetry about Family Caregiving

Editor(s): Carol Levine

AAUP Books Committee "Outstanding" Title of 2015

Living in the Land of Limbo is the first anthology of short stories and poems about family caregivers. These men and women find themselves in "limbo," as they struggle to take care of a family member or friend in the uncertain world of chronic illness. The authors explore caregivers' experiences as they deal with family conflicts, the complexities of the health care system, and the impact of their choices on their lives and the lives of others. The book includes selections devoted to caregivers of aging parents; husbands and wives; ill children; and relatives, lovers, and friends. A final section is devoted to paid caregivers and their clients. Among the conditions that form the background of the selections are dementia, HIV/AIDS, mental illness, multiple sclerosis, and pediatric cancer.

Many of the authors are well-known poets and writers, but others have not been published in mainstream media. They represent a range of cultural backgrounds. Although their works approach caregiving in very different ways, the authors share a commitment to emotional truth, unvarnished by societal ideals of what caregivers should feel and do. These stories and poems paint profoundly moving and revealing portraits of family caregivers.

Biography of Editor(s)

Carol Levine directs the United Hospital Fund's Families and Health Care Project. She is a former editor of the Hastings Center Report. In 1993 she was awarded a MacArthur Foundation Fellowship for her work in AIDS policy and ethics. She edited Always On Call: When Illness Turns Families into Caregivers (2nd ed., Vanderbilt University Press, 2004).


  • "This book is an engrossing and insightful read that can be recommended to anyone wishing to enrich their understanding of the caregivers' predicament—the worries, isolation, uncertainty, and losses as well as the satisfactions. The brevity and completeness of the selections reduce the time commitment and are likely to stimulate reflections on and connections with one's own experience."
    The Gerontologist
  • "[A] provoking and delicate contemporary collection that showcases a variety of short fiction and poetry from some of the best writers."
    Times Leader
  • "[Living in the Land of Limbo's] editor, Carol Levine, hopes that carers lying awake at night will dip into the book for 'a new perspective.' She aims to avoid consoling stereotypes and instead to choose fiction 'unvarnished by societal ideals of what caregivers should feel and do.' At its best, her selection achieves and outstrips this aim. . . . Levine's book is a generous and well-informed attempt to clear a space for insight and self-reflection for some of the busiest people in the world."
    Times Literary Supplement