During her mother's long death from Alzheimer's, Jeanne Murray Walker learns to navigate the memories and history that connects her to her mother, her family, and her own childhood in hopeful and beautiful ways.
Tens of millions of Americans either suffer from Alzheimer's or care for someone who does. In a single generation, that number will triple. Jeanne Murray Walker's memoir speaks with compassionate wisdom about the gifts that wait to be discovered even in the midst of this grim disease. As Walker cares for her mother during her heartrending decline, she, her sister, and her mother develop closer ties. The intimate look at illness and death - hardly acknowledged by our culture - becomes another sort of gift. And after spending thousands of hours with her mother, Jeanne begins to recover her own early memories and understand her history in a transformative way. THE GEOGRAPHY OF MEMORY reveals that for all the grim news about Alzheimer's, it is possible to find joy and hope in the midst of pain.
The story is made up of three braided strands. Two are narrative: the present story of caring for her mother, and the past story of Walker's childhood memories. The third strand is a series of pithy Field Notes that anchor the book in practical reflections on memory. Interwoven are chapters which flash back to Walker's teenage battles with her feisty, valiant, widowed mother. Only because Walker slowed down and spent thousands of hours in the company of her mother during the last decade of her life was she able to recover these memories. The field notes are short, poetic pauses in the narrative that address memory: what it is, how it works, how it can be strengthened, what happens when it goes away.
THE GEOGRAPHY OF MEMORY is the hopeful story about Alzheimer's that readers are waiting to hear.
In a kind of family alchemy, a mother's failing memory somehow excites the synapses of her daughter's. The result is a child-adult memoir of grace, poignancy, and rich compassion. - Philip Yancey, bestselling author
At once heart-wrenching and richly rewarding, intimate and objective, coldly cutting, and full of clear-eyed promise, THE GEOGRAPHY OF MEMORY is a beautiful gathering of moments: an artful mosaic of shards that build to a portrait of faith and hope and love. - Bret Lott, author of Letters and Life: On Being a Writer, On Being a Christian and Jewel
In describing her mother's long passage into dementia and its reverberations through a family, Jeanne Murray Walker... shows how the light of hope and grace can illuminate even the darkest journey. For many, many readers THE GEOGRAPHY OF MEMORY will be a treasure. - Alan Jacobs, author of The Narnian
Those of us who've accompanied a beloved parent through the valley of the shadow will instantly recognize the terrain in this lyrical and profoundly wise account of aging unto death. Jeanne Murray Walker's THE GEOGRAPHY OF MEMORY is, hands down, one of the most beautiful books I've ever read. - Paula Huston, author of Simplifying the Soul and A Season of Mystery
If you believe there is only darkness and loss in caring for a parent with Alzheimer's, you clearly haven't read Jeanne Murray Walker's book, which sets us straight. This page-turning memoir, fastidious in detail, delivers surprise and wit on nearly every page, teaching us about the immutability and transcendence of human personality, worth, and love. I needed this book. - Leslie Leyland Fields, author of Surviving the Island of Grace: A Life on the Wild Edge of America
A beautifully written memoir of a daughter's journey with her mother over the changeful, perilous landscape of Alzheimer's. The author's compassion, humanity, and humor shine through a chaotic, if not amazing, kaleidoscope of family plans, places, and emotions. What powerfully winds through the narrative is a poet's wonderful reflections on her own history and the nature of memory, identity, and self. A dazzling, engaging story of the grace of holding on and letting go. - Dr. Myrna Grant, faculty emerita, Wheaton College, Illinois
Walker, a poet, creates a rich texture of remembered physical detail that not only lends beauty to the narrative but anchors events and emotions in the reader's memory even as they were anchored in her own. - Stephanie Kraft, journalist and author of No Castles on Main Street