This book takes you right into the middle of a family dealing with a tragic situation, and submerges you in their fears, pains, and intermittent periods of joy. It is a heartbreaking journey, but absolutely worth the trip.
Claire Armstrong is only in her early forties, but she has early-onset Alzheimer’s disease. Greg, Claire’s husband, hopes it will help her to put together a “memory book,” so that she can record what she can still remember. Soon the whole family is contributing, from 3-year-old Esther to 20-year-old Caitlin (Claire’s daughter by a college boyfriend), to Claire’s mom Ruth, who has come to live with them to help take care of Claire. The author cleverly alternates narrators in the form of memory book entries. She also gives a lot of narrative space to Caitlin, which helps provide a bit of emotional relief to Claire’s situation.
But for me, it is Greg’s story that pulls the most at your heartstrings.
I thought about this book a great deal after finishing it, and was so glad I read it.
Evaluation: Ordinarily I like to avoid books with unhappy subjects, because, well, who likes to plunge into depressing situations? But the author does a beautiful job, and makes this so much a love story rather than a story about a disease; that is, a story about all kinds of love, and about the importance of understanding you may not have “all the time in the world” to be who you want to be, love who you love, and say the things you want to say.
The ending is quite wonderful.
Published by Ballantine Books, an imprint of Random House, 2015