Tens of millions of Americans either suffer from Alzheimer’s or care for someone who does. In a single generation, that number will triple. Jeanne Murray Walker’s memoir speaks with compassionate wisdom about the gifts that wait to be discovered even in the midst of this grim disease. As Walker cares for her mother during her heartrending decline, she, her sister and her mother develop closer ties. The intimate look at illness and death-hardly acknowledged by our culture-becomes another sort of gift and after spending thousands of hours with her mother, Jeanne begins to recover her own early memories and understand her history in a transformative way. THE GEOGRAPHY OF MEMORY reveals that for all the grim news about Alzheimer’s, it is possible to find joy and hope in the midst of pain.
The story is made up of three braided strands. Two are narrative: the present story of caring for her mother and the past story of Walker’s childhood memories. The third strand is a series of pithy Field Notes that anchor the book in practical reflections on memory. Interwoven are chapters which flash back to Walker’s teenage battles with her feisty, valiant, widowed mother. Only because Walker slowed down and spent thousands of hours in the company of her mother during the last decade of her life was she able to recover these memories. The field notes are short, poetic pauses in the narrative that address memory: what it is, how it works, how it can be strengthened, what happens when it goes away.
Geography of Memory is the hopeful story about Alzheimer’s that readers are waiting to hear.