Thu, 10 May 2018
At first glance The Memory Book by Rowan Coleman might seem a rather depressing choice for a book recommendation given that the subject matter is about Alzheimer’s Disease, but this story is both desperately sad, yet uplifting and positive at the same time.
When Claire is diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease, her world and that of those closest to her is completely shattered. Recently married to the love of her life, she has a three-year-old daughter as a well as a 21-year-old daughter from an earlier relationship and a mother who has already nursed her husband through the same debilitating disease.
Claire’s counsellor advises them to start a memory book in which she and her family can record events from their past, so that the memories will linger on.
Coleman intersperses these memories with the unravelling of Claire’s life and her desperate attempts to sort things out before she can no longer function as a normal human being.
Her young husband, Greg, has to watch as his wife distances herself from him, her daughter can’t understand why mummy can’ t read to her any more and her older daughter has decisions of her own to make.
One by one, each member of the family contributes to the book and the reader gets a sense of the bond that ties the family together and of the deep love. There is also a race against time element as family issues have to be resolved before Claire is unable to make a useful contribution.
While Coleman doesn’t shy away from the devastating effects of this cruel disease, she also creates believable characters who are going through a harrowing situation and reacting in a realistic way. They lose their tempers, they get frustrated, the sense of despair is palpable, but they also stick together and create a good thing out of the sadness.
The memory book they write reminds them of their strengths and of why they love each other so much.
There can be no happy ending to a story like this but somehow The Memory Book conveys a sense of human resilience and that whatever life throws at you it’s all worth it for the good bits.