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Archive for the ‘Alzheimer’s Disease’ Category

How Not to Disappear by Clare Furniss is a charming book about intergenerational relationships, very similar to Jenny Downham’s Unbecoming.

While Hattie is home alone she answers a phone call. The stranger on the other end, Peggy, tells Hattie that her elderly neighbor, Gloria, is unwell and it would be nice if Gloria’s only family, that is Hattie’s family, would visit her. The problem is that nobody in Hattie’s family has ever heard of Gloria.

When the rest of Hattie’s family begins a two week vacation, Hattie decides to drive to London (Hattie’s not an experienced driver) to visit Gloria, who turns out to be her great-aunt. What she finds is a crusty old lady, sitting in a window seat sipping Champagne. Gloria makes it clear she wants no part of Hattie, but Hattie is unshaken.

On her second visit, Hattie learns that Gloria is suffering from the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease and suggests Gloria prepare a bucket list of places she’d like to visit while she can still remember them and the two women take a road trip, which Gloria reluctantly agrees to.

How Not to Disappear is a book about two women who have secrets: the first is a seventeen year old keeping a secret from her parents and the second is a seventy year old with a secret she’s never told anyone. It’s a rewarding intergenerational story about two people who come to terms with their lives and form a bond.

The parallels to Unbecoming are uncanny. In How Not to Disappear, Hattie meets an great aunt she never met. In Unbecoming, Katie meets a grandmother she’s never met. Both older women are suffering from dementia. The young women form a bond with their elderly relatives who in turn relate their life stories. Both older women led carefree theatrical lives. Both young women have an issue they must come to terms with. There is one more similarity which I’ll let the reader discover.

While the similarities are numerous, the books are vastly different and both should be read.

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BookOfBrokenHeartsJude Hernandez is confronting two issues in the summer after graduating high school. Her papi, only 52 years old, is suffering from early onset Alzheimer’s disease and his actions, moods and memory are unpredictable.

One day, she uncovered an old motorcycle under tarps in their barn. It was her papi’s and he rode it all over Argentina before moving to the States. In the hope of delaying/reversing El Demonio, they decide to have it restored. Unfortunately, it is Emilio Vargas who is given that chore-the Vargas boys are known for breaking the hearts of Hernandez girls-and Jude is falling for him defying an oath the four sisters took to avoid Vargas’ at all costs.

The Book of Broken Hearts by Sarah Ockler is the only YA book I know of that addresses this important issue. According to the Alzheimer’s Association,

  • Alzheimer’s is the 6th leading cause of death in the U.S.
  • More than 5 million Americans have it.
  • Approximately 4% (200,000) of the above cases are early onset, meaning the person is under 65 years old.
  • By 2025, it is estimated that 7.1 million Americans will have the disease and
  • By 2050 it jumps to 13.8 million.

Ockler ably tackles the issues surrounding the disease and the family members who have to deal with a loved one who has Alzheimer’s, such as caregiving (both short term and long term), the progression and unpredictability of the disease, the need for family members to lead their own lives.  The romantic spark between Emilio and Jude amid the disapproval of her sisters adds to the story line.

The Book of Broken Hearts is a touching story on many levels.

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