by Rick R. Reed
Dreamspinner Press

Reviewed by Alina Oswald

“There is a fine line between triumph and disaster. That line is hope,” says long-term AIDS survivor and Hope: A Story of Triumph author Joel Rothschild [A&U, October 2003]. As we step into the fourth decade of AIDS, we further distance ourselves from the disaster associated with the pandemic and become more used to the idea of triumph over the pandemic. And yet, staying on the path from disaster to triumph can be challenging, and may require a delicate balancing act between modern-day AIDS complacency and awareness, between our strides toward a future free of AIDS and our responsibility to always remember the history of AIDS.

Award-winning author Rick R. Reed takes on this responsibility. In Caregiver, a semi-autobiographical story of AIDS based on the his own experience as an AIDS Buddy with an outreach organization, Reed takes us back to a time before the advent of life-extending medications, to the height of the epidemic, offering a chronicle of AIDS from the less expected perspective of a witness to (rather than victim of) AIDS.

The enormity of the pandemic engulfs both its witnesses and victims, and comes through during the read. Yet, the Caregiver’s story is not one of human hopelessness, nor helplessness. Rather, it is a bold tale of self-doubt and regret, trust bruised by addiction and fear mixed in with the desire to carry on.

Caregiver is a gentle story of compassion and friendship that become love, and of love and sacrifice that transcend realms. In Reed’s story, caregiver/patient roles reverse and evolve, making room for a lasting connection, one stronger than AIDS and death, a keepsake to guide us on the path through AIDS, from its years of disaster to those of triumph.

In Caregiver Reed explores human nature as it is shaped by life, death and everything in between. The result is a heart-wrenching, outstanding, and memorable read.

Alina Oswald is a writer/photographer and the author of Journeys Through Darkness, a biography of AIDS. Contact her at

March 2012