Alice Howland doesn’t have just an ordinary mind. She is a married mother of three adult children, and a Harvard professor who never stops learning, reading, or sharing her knowledge with others. She eats, breathes and sleeps academia. This story of her decline into early on-set Alzheimer’s is akin to watching an athlete lose a limb or a bicycle lose its wheel. It is simply impossible to imagine. Ironically, the mind that Dr. Howland has worked so hard at developing and enriching begins to rapidly deteriorate when she is only around 50 years old.
What starts as symptoms of growing older, such as losing things, or forgetting words or appointments, quickly changes when Alice finds herself lost in her own neighborhood. She wastes no time in going to the doctor and is swiftly given the diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease. Not surprisingly, her relationship with everyone around her begins to change. She can no longer maintain her role as a leader in her academic circles. She becomes more accepting of the child she has struggled to understand. In a very short period of time, she builds several new relationships with a small group of other young people suffering from similar fates. Most difficult to reconcile is the relationship she has with her husband as he tries to come to terms with her disease.
The author does a wonderful job of providing accurate and detailed medical information about the mysterious world of Alzheimer’s and dementia. She is able to do this while still building a powerful, personal story line that will have you trembling in fear the first time you forget where you placed your keys. Whether or not you have personal experience with Alzheimer’s (I don’t), you will be drawn to these characters and touched by their journey. This was a book I did not want to put down no matter how emotionally difficult it was to get to the end.
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