BOOK REVIEW – The Memory Book by Rowan Coleman

The Memory Book

What a beautiful, sensitive, heartbreaking book!

Claire is a bright, intelligent writer in her early 40’s. She lives with the love of her life, Greg (who is much younger than her), Esther, their 3-year-old daughter, and 20-year-old Caitlin, Claire’s daughter who is home for the holidays. But wait, why is Ruth, Claire’s mother also here? Why is she trying to take over Claire’s life and control things?

Because Claire has early-onset Alzheimer’s Disease (AD), which unfortunately is not responding to treatment, and is rapidly deteriorating. Claire fears she is disappearing altogether, and the worst part is that she knows exactly what’s happening to her. Her counsellor suggests that she writes in a memory book so that her beloved family will always have a part of her to keep, the part that they remember from before this brutal illness came to claim her. The book becomes a place where each member of the family places their treasured memories, and shares the secrets closest to their hearts, secrets that will forever bind them together long after Claire is gone.

Told from the perspectives of Claire, Caitlin, Greg and Ruth, we follow them through the journey that they are all on through Claire’s AD. For it is not only the patient who has to endure their condition, but also every single person close to them, and those they come into contact with. We read about the very real pain and fear that accompanies losing someone who is still right before your eyes, bit by precious bit, and the desperate struggle of trying to hold onto them for just a little bit longer.

This book will make you weep for the pain that they all have to bear; especially for Greg who loves Claire so deeply, but who is the first one she forgets, and for Esther when you wonder what recollection she will have of the mother who will leave her long before she should have to.

It’s an in-depth, realistic exploration of this devastating, crippling condition, but also a perceptive, profound study of how love survives, even if it’s in ways we’d never expect.

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