An unvarnished cautionary tale, demonstrating that anyone who assumes caregiving responsibilities blindly or out of guilt is...

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KEEPER

ONE HOUSE, THREE GENERATIONS, AND A JOURNEY INTO ALZHEIMER’S

In her debut, journalist Gillies strikingly chronicles her slow disintegration as she struggled to nurse a mother-in-law stricken with Alzheimer’s disease.

When the author agreed to care for her husband’s elderly parents—Morris dwindling physically, Nancy dwindling mentally—the family moved into a rambling Victorian manse in northern Scotland. The heavy weather of their remote peninsula paralleled the gathering storms inside Nancy’s head. Tangling the lines of communication in her brain, the disease ate steadily through her memory, emotions and thought processes. With 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, complete with paranoia and depression. Along the way, the author makes numerous field trips into brain chemistry, following Alzheimer’s as it erases personality, robs the sufferer of memory, disinhibits behavior and finally truncates thought. Gillies explains with sparking anger how the United Kingdom’s social system has failed miserably to address dementia as an illness. Yet she can also tack away from the disease and let in some fresh air with a painterly description of their wild Scottish outpost. She once thought she might encounter the Sublime there, but “the hunt for the Sublime…has become a grimly private joke.” The constant grind of tending to Nancy was ruinous for Gillies, who progressed from sympathy over her mother-in-law’s tears, confusion, misery and baffled panic to simply wanting to be rid of a woman whose rants and rages had become everyday—indeed, every hour—occurrences. From this bleak family experience “soaked marrow-deep in defeat,” the author emerged with awe and gratitude for a working brain: “how associative it is and how rich, in its leading from one thing to another, into that whole interior landscape of yoked-together and often incongruous thoughts that adds up to a self.”

An unvarnished cautionary tale, demonstrating that anyone who assumes caregiving responsibilities blindly or out of guilt is hopping on a greased chute to self-destruction.

Pub Date: Aug. 17, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-307-71911-9

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Broadway

Review Posted Online: June 3, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2010

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An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

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BECOMING

The former first lady opens up about her early life, her journey to the White House, and the eight history-making years that followed.

It’s not surprising that Obama grew up a rambunctious kid with a stubborn streak and an “I’ll show you” attitude. After all, it takes a special kind of moxie to survive being the first African-American FLOTUS—and not only survive, but thrive. For eight years, we witnessed the adversity the first family had to face, and now we get to read what it was really like growing up in a working-class family on Chicago’s South Side and ending up at the world’s most famous address. As the author amply shows, her can-do attitude was daunted at times by racism, leaving her wondering if she was good enough. Nevertheless, she persisted, graduating from Chicago’s first magnet high school, Princeton, and Harvard Law School, and pursuing careers in law and the nonprofit world. With her characteristic candor and dry wit, she recounts the story of her fateful meeting with her future husband. Once they were officially a couple, her feelings for him turned into a “toppling blast of lust, gratitude, fulfillment, wonder.” But for someone with a “natural resistance to chaos,” being the wife of an ambitious politician was no small feat, and becoming a mother along the way added another layer of complexity. Throw a presidential campaign into the mix, and even the most assured woman could begin to crack under the pressure. Later, adjusting to life in the White House was a formidable challenge for the self-described “control freak”—not to mention the difficulty of sparing their daughters the ugly side of politics and preserving their privacy as much as possible. Through it all, Obama remained determined to serve with grace and help others through initiatives like the White House garden and her campaign to fight childhood obesity. And even though she deems herself “not a political person,” she shares frank thoughts about the 2016 election.

An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

Pub Date: Nov. 13, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6313-8

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 30, 2018

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

NIGHT

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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