Way back when my mom was first diagnosed with dementia, I searched the Internet and scoured stores for books to help me understand the disease. There were not many good reads available at that time. Though more have appeared in recent years, I now believe that the complexities of dementia force many authors to focus on tiny slices of the story.
Still Alice, by Lisa Genova, attracted many readers partly because it was one of the first novels to address the topic of Alzheimer’s. From a writer’s perspective, it’s an amazing book because the author had a terrible time finding a publisher. She had to self-publish her book and sell it from the trunk of her car before a publishing house finally took it on. Her faith in the book was well-founded since it sat unchallenged on the New York Times Bestseller list for 40 weeks!
All Gone: A Memoir of My Mother’s Dementia by Alex Witchel is a more recent effort chronicling a writer’s perspective on her mother’s dementia. This book describes the emotional journey taken by the author as her mother’s dementia resists efforts to defeat it. This book has gotten a lot of press, partly because the author writes for the New York Times.
Last month Cleaver Magazine asked me to review The Faraway Nearby by Rebecca Solnit, an award-winning writer. Many elements of this book are fascinating, but its treatment of dementia is pretty unsatisfying. The wild range of stories in the book mutes the author’s emotional response to her mother’s dementia. If any life event triggers strong emotions, its got to be the challenge of facing this illness.
Books that truly illuminate the nature of dementia have the power to help patients, families and caregivers struggling with the disease. If you’ve read something great or have a new title to recommend, please post your suggestions here. Inquiring minds need to know.