My father, a brilliant and irascible man, died at the grand age of ninety-five. For the last five years of his life, my brothers and I got a crash course in caring for a (very) elderly, and increasingly infirm, relative. What would it be like, I wondered, for a teenager to look after a very old person? That's the question that led me to write Death Benefits. Royce, the narrator, is sixteen. His grandfather, Arthur, is ninety-five. They hardly know each other when Royce is pressed into service as Arthur's caregiver. Neither of them is pleased with the arrangement, but Royce needs money and Arthur needs the help
My experience caring for my father certainly helped in the writing of the book, but Arthur is not my father, although they share some characteristics: a fondness for bad TV, chocolate ice cream and beautiful cars. Arthur is a much better cellist than my father was and far better traveled, but my father was undoubtedly handier around the house (and in the operating room). By the time I finished writing Death Benefits I felt that I , like my narrator, had come to terms with the life and death of a very challenging, very special old man.