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review 2018-09-01 05:50
Memory's Last Breath
Memory's Last Breath: Field Notes on My Dementia - Gerda Saunders

I chose this book on NetGalley because the topic was timely for me — my mom is dealing with many of the same issues — and I wanted to learn more about it, especially given the first-hand account. As it got closer on my to-read pile, I found myself resistant. By then, I had read the eye-opening book, The 36-Hour Day, which certainly helped my understanding, but also pretty much squelched my desire to be more informed. In this respect, Saunders anecdote-filled book was a relief, but, as a scientist herself, she balanced the narrative with so much information that it was occasionally overwhelming. It is always difficult to see someone whose livelihood depends on their superior intellect affected by a disease of the mind, but I was more moved by the daily diary entries that detailed embarrassing lapses in the countless mundane acts we all perform thoughtlessly every day.

 

There are a lot of digressions here, but I forgive her those. I think that, given the platform of this book, she is allowed to show off a little, to prove that she still has a wealth of information at her command, despite this disease nipping at her heels. A thought-provoking story, and, for those of us who truly understand her struggle, a comfort.   

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review 2018-04-03 23:48
Very Lackluster and hardly any suspense at all
Paper Ghosts: A Novel of Suspense - Julia Heaberlin

I was psyched for this one! I love these kinds of books that keep you guessing and sets you on the edge of suspense. Among other things that are prevalent throughout the novel. Unfortunately, I think I was just a little too hyped over this book.

 

Although the plot had some good moments and the occasional suspense, I found it lackluster and often wondering where this is going to take me. I wish the mystery and suspense was more heightened. It was a very flat plot with not much going for it except the mysterious bits and even  then, it feels like you hit what you think it was a climax only for it to die down quick and we’re back to the same flat plot line again. It feels like a long dreary car ride with people you don’t like. (The entire book they’re frequently on the road, so this relates.)

 

When all the mystery is revealed - it was all right. Yet it felt like a simple shrug of the shoulder and it was off to go back home. It was a bit frustrating, and it wasn’t anything to be surprised about. Nothing creeping from out of the blue, or anything to blind side you. It’s similar to the feeling when you are opening a gift and you already know what it is. There’s not much element of surprise or much feeling to go with it.

 

However, the one theme I did like was the one with dementia. It’s pictured with accuracy and this aspect of the book was well written. You can feel the high strung energy and  the main character feeling ready to snap when Carl starts going off track in his mind and unfortunately that’s really how it is when dealing with someone who is suffering from this disease. It’s extremely hard to maintain your patience but at the same time you are realizing it’s not their fault. Her relationship with Carl throughout the novel perfectly depicts this and because of this dynamic, this was why I stuck through and read the book.

 

This book could have been better in the suspense area. Overall the plot is pretty much lackluster and had few suspenseful moments. Worth reading? I say read for the character relationship and development. Otherwise those that want a scare or a surprise won’t find any of that in here at all.

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review 2017-10-10 15:14
An emotional journey into a disintegrating mind and its effects
Disease: When Life takes an Unexpected Turn - Hans M. Hirschi

I have read quite a few books by Hans Hirschi (not all, but I might get there given time) and have enjoyed them, no matter what the genre. The author is not somebody who writes thinking about the market or the latest trend. He writes stories he cares about, and beyond interesting plots and fully-fledged characters, he always pushes us to think about some of the big questions: prejudice, ecology, poverty, child abuse, families, laws, gender, identity… If all of his stories are personal, however fictional, this novel is perhaps even more personal than the rest.

As a psychiatrist, I’ve diagnosed patients with dementia (Alzheimer’s disease or other types), I’ve assessed and looked after patients with dementia in hospital, and I have seen, second-hand, what the illness does to the relatives and friends, and also to the patients, but as an observer, from outside. I’ve known some people who have suffered from the condition but not close enough to be able to give a personal account.

The novel tries to do something quite difficult: to give us the insight into what somebody suffering from Alzheimer’s feels, what they think, and how they experience the process of losing their own memories and themselves. The book is written in a diary format, in the first person, by Hunter, a man in his forties who, after some episodes of forgetfulness, goes to the doctors and is diagnosed with early Alzheimer’s. He writes articles for a living, is married to Ethan, who is a high-school teacher, and they have a five-year-old daughter, Amy (born of a surrogate mother, and Ethan’s biological daughter). They live in Michigan, where they moved to from California, and therefore they are not legally married, as that was not an option at the time. To the worry of his illness and how this will affect him (Hunter’s mother also died of the condition, so he is fully aware of its effects on its sufferers), are added the worries about practicalities, about Amy’s care, about financial stability, about his own care, as they are not a couple with equal rights in the eyes of the law.

Hunter’s diary is framed by Ethan’s narration. Ethan finds the file of the diary a couple of years after Hunter’s passing and decides to publish it, mostly letting Hunter’s words speak for themselves, but at times he clarifies if something Hunter narrates truly happened or not, or gives us his own version of events (for instance, when Hunter gets lost). Although the story is mostly written by Hunter and told from the point of view of the sufferer, Ethan’s brief contributions are poignant and heart-wrenching, precisely because we do get the sense that he is trying so hard to be strong, fair, and to focus on his daughter. He accepts things as they are and is not bitter, but the heavy toll the illness has taken is clear.

The novel ends with a letter written by Amy. Although brief, we get another perspective on how the illness affects families, and through her eyes we get to know more about how Ethan is truly feeling. A deeply moving letter that rings true.

The characters are well drawn, and even when the progression of the illness means that some of the episodes Hunter describes might not be true, they still give us a good insight into his thoughts, his illusions, and his worries. He writes compellingly and beautifully (although there are is evidence of paranoia, ramblings, and some disconnected writing towards the end), and the fact that his writing remains articulate (although the gaps between entries increase as the book progresses and he even stops writing when he misplaces the file) fit in with research about preservation of those skills we have used the most and are more ingrained. Hunter pours into his diary his thoughts and experiences, some that he has never shared in detail with anybody (like being trapped at a hotel in Mumbai during a terrorist attack), and others that seem to be flights of fancy or wishful thinking. He shares his own opinions (his dislike of nursing homes, his horror at the thought of being looked after by somebody he doesn’t know, his worries about the future, his memories of the past…) and is at times humorous, at times nasty, at others indignant and righteous. He is not a cardboard cut-out, and neither are any of the other characters.

Apart from the personal story of the characters, we have intrusions of the real world, including news, court decisions, that ground the events in the here and now, however universal they might be, but wherever you live and whoever you are, it is impossible not to put yourself in the place of the characters and wonder what you would do, and how much more difficult things are for them because they are not a “normal” family.

This is an extraordinary book, a book that made me think about patients I had known with similar diagnosis, about the difficulties they and their families face (there are not that many nursing homes that accommodate early dementia, and most of those for elderly patients are not suited to the needs of younger patients), about end of life care, and about what I would do faced with a similar situation. The book does not shy away from asking the difficult questions, and although it is impossible to read it and not feel emotional, it tells the story with the same dignity it affords its main character.

Although there is a certain degree of intrigue from the beginning (we do not find the exact circumstances of Hunter’s death until very close to the end) that will, perhaps, contribute to reading it even faster, this book is for readers who are interested in dementia and Alzheimer’s (although it is not an easy read), who love well-drawn characters, deep psychological portrayals, and stories about families and their ties. A great and important book I thoroughly recommend and another first-rate addition to Mr. Hirschi’s oeuvre.

I received an ARC copy of this book and I freely decided to review it. Thanks to the author and the publisher for this opportunity.

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review 2016-05-07 22:34
The Dementia of Language - Sara Toruno-Conley

My favorite poems are the ones that work together to create a story and that is just what this collection does.

Each poem is beautiful and haunting in itself, but together they make up a story of a mother's dementia. The poems are told from three different perspectives, the daughter, the father, and the mother herself, and demonstrate some of the struggles that each of the members of the family face.

This is a quick read, but one that is achingly beautiful, full of sorrow, and delves into the depths of human connections.

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review 2016-01-21 19:34
The Dementia Diaries- my highest recommendation!
The Dementia Diaries: A Novel in Cartoons - Social Innovation Lab Kent,Matthew Snyman,Angela Rippon

I am so glad I read this. It is written in Diary/Journal entries from different a few children/teenagers and bounces between each of their perspectives. There are drawings added that really helped to add to each of the enteries.

 

Some of the topics will make you laugh, cry, and really think about what it is like to live in close proximity to someone with dementia. In no way is it easy. I loved how each of these children were able to look past the bad and try to remember "good" times. 

 

This is split into sections and at the end of these sections is an activities section with suggestions that are intended to educate and help cope. Some of these ideas are very good and will help give a child the feeling of being involved and hopefully make it easier for them accept their situation. 

 

I really feel that this would help any child in a situation where Dementia has made an impact on their life. It also may help an older person (parent, grandparent, etc) understand how it effects a child, and how a child views what Dementia is. I give this my highest recommendation.

 

Something that made me laugh:

 

 

A YouTube video (Making The Dimentia Diaries):

 

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=sYYVSRCWKAA

 

I recieved an e-copy of this book through Edelwiess in exchange for an honest review. 

 

 

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