One House, Three Generations, and a Journey Into Alzheimer's
By Andrea Gillies
(Broadway Books, Paperback, 9780307719126, 327pp.)
Publication Date: October 25, 2011
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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.