An errant son memorializes the devastating impact of his father’s struggle with Alzheimer’s disease.
Acclaimed for his work with inner-city schoolchildren, National Book Award winner Kozol’s (Fire in the Ashes: Twenty-Five Years Among the Poorest Children in America, 2012, etc.) memoir centers around the subsequent fallout of his father’s Alzheimer’s diagnosis at age 88 in 1994. A former Boston-area neurologist with an instructional practice at a Harvard teaching hospital, Dr. Harry Kozol began experiencing memory lapses, “interrupted consciousness,” and confused wandering spells, which he self-diagnosed as progressive brain cortex cell degeneration. The author dutifully retraces his familial ancestry and writes frankly of an all-consuming rebelliousness that estranged him from his father for a time during the 1960s. Later, Kozol’s prolific literary endeavors kept the family distanced further, a situation the author has come to palpably regret in hindsight. While his father’s increasing physical frailty and mental fragmentation eventually forced him into a nursing home, the event, however tragic, provided both men ample time to bond and make up for time lost. A poignant consideration of precious memories, the memoir is also accented by Kozol’s newfound respect for his father’s former sense of “dignity and intellectual engagement” throughout his life, as well as in his profession, an occupation often complicated by the great mental complexities of his patients. As his father’s recognition skills and physical agility faltered further, Kozol fully realized the exhaustive challenge of caretaking for a parent. As a reading experience, the entire ordeal only becomes wearying when Kozol’s mother also begins exhibiting symptoms akin to his father’s rapidly deteriorating lucidity. Readers familiar with the emotional toll exacted by a loved one with Alzheimer’s will embrace Kozol’s nostalgic, often heart-wrenching narrative as an important addition to the genre.
A compassionate, cathartic, and searingly intimate chronicle of a crippling condition.