One House, Three Generations, and a Journey into Alzheimer's
By Andrea Gillies
(Broadway Books, Hardcover, 9780307719119, 336pp.)
Publication Date: August 17, 2010
Other Editions of This Title: Paperback
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Five years ago, Andrea Gillies— writer, wife, and mother of three—seeing that her husband's parents were struggling to cope, invited them to move in. She and her newly extended family relocated to a big Victorian house on a remote, windswept peninsula in the far north of Scotland, leaving behind their friends and all that was familiar; hoping to find a new life, and new inspiration for work.
Her mother-in-law Nancy was in the middle stages of Alzheimer's Disease, and Keeper charts her journey into dementia, its impact on her personality and her family, and the author's researches into what dementia is. As the grip of her disease tightens, Nancy's grasp on everything we think of as ordinary unravels before our eyes. Diary entries and accounts of conversations with Nancy track the slow unravelling. The journey is marked by frustration, isolation, exhaustion, and unexpected black comedy. For the author, who knew little about dementia at the outset, the learning curve was steeper than she could have imagined. The most pernicious quality of Alzheimer’s, Gillies suggests, is that the loss of memory is, in effect, the loss of one’s self, and Alzheimer’s, because it robs us of our intrinsic self-knowledge, our ability to connect with others, and our capacity for self-expression, is perhaps the most terrible and most dehumanizing illness. Moreover, as Gillies reminds us, the effects of Alzheimer’s are far-reaching, impacting the lives of caregivers and their loved ones in every way imaginable.
Keeper is a fiercely honest “glimpse into the dementia abyss”—an endlessly engrossing meditation on memory and the mind, on family, and on a society that is largely indifferent to the far-reaching ravages of this baffling disease.
ANDREA GILLIES is a writer and journalist. Keeper won the 2009 Wellcome Trust Book Prize, the United Kingdom's pre-eminent popular science writing award, and the 2010 Orwell Prize. She lives with her family in St. Andrews, Scotland, and has just completed her first novel.
“Forthright, smartly researched, and warmly recounted…Gillies writes with a novelist’s eye for detail, and her unflinching rendering of Nancy’s excruciating loss of self is skillfully and tenderly drawn…An invaluable resource.” – Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“With an economy of expression, an eye for detail and a storyteller’s knack for dialogue, Gillies charts Nancy’s terrible course from doddering to vicious and her own decline into caregiver dementia…An unvarnished cautionary tale.” —Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
“The key to Gillies’ personal strength resides in the numerous literary and philosophical observations she frequently quotes and from which she draws inspiration in this awesome chronicle.” —Booklist (starred review)
Praise from Abroad for KEEPER
"This is one of the most moving and important books that I have read on Alzheimer's." — John Bayley, Author of Elgy for Iris
“Overflows with history, literature…[a] compassionate account.” – Times Literary Supplement
“A painfully honest account.” —Daily Express
“The most poignant aspect of Keeper is the way Gillies traces the increasingly unbearable pressures that are placed on carers as patients progress from memory lapses, not remembering important life events and no longer recognizing family members, to the final advanced stage that Gillies calls the ‘darkest shadow.’” —The Lancet
“Andrea Gillies’s account of living with Alzheimer’s is the perfect fusion of narrative with enough memorable science not to choke you. It’s a fantastic book—down to earth and darkly comic in places.” —The Psychologist
“In Keeper there is hope and humanity and the warmth of sacrifice.” —Catholic Herald
“Deeply moving.” —Daily Mail