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Dancing with Rose: Finding Life in the Land of Alzheimer'sby Lauren Kessler
Synopses & Reviews
Like many loved ones of Alzheimer's sufferers, Lauren Kessler was devastated by the ravaging disease that seemed to turn her mother into another person before claiming her life altogether. To deal with the pain of her loss, and to better understand the confounding aspects of living with a disease that afflicts four and a half million people every year, Kessler enlisted as a caregiver at a facility she calls Maplewood. Life inside the facility is exhausting and humbling, a microenvironment built upon the intense relationships between two groups of marginalized people: the victims of Alzheimer's and the underpaid, overworked employees who care for them. But what surprises Kessler more than the disability and backbreaking work is the grace, humor, and unexpected humanity that are alive and well at Maplewood.
Dancing with Rose is forceful and funny, clear-eyed and compelling. An intriguing narrative about the relationships and realities of end-of-life care, it stars an endearing cast of characters who give a human face to what has always been considered a dehumanizing condition. Illuminating and beautifully written, Kessler's immersion offers a new, optimistic view on what Alzheimer's has to teach us.
"The growing number of readers who have relatives with Alzheimer's will warm to Kessler's excellent account of the months she worked as an unskilled resident assistant in an Alzheimer's facility on the West Coast. This facility, which she calls Maplewood, is a state-of-the-art institution, divided into small 'neighborhoods' of 14 rooms with private baths, a common space and enclosed patios. The author of several nonfiction books, Kessler (Full Court Press) was attempting to resolve her feelings after her own mother, with whom she had a troubled relationship, died of Alzheimer's; bittersweet memories of her are scattered through the narrative. At Maplewood, Kessler feeds, toilets and converses with residents in varying stages of the illness. Marianne, for instance, an alert and well-dressed woman, appears not to belong at Maplewood. She still regards herself as a successful working woman, and the author treats her as such. Kessler becomes strongly attached to some of the other men and women in her neighborhood, feeling bereaved when several die during her tenure. She comes to regard Alzheimer's sufferers as individuals who can still enjoy life, given the care and recreational opportunities extended at this facility — a powerful lesson in the humanity of those we often see as tragically bereft of that quality. (June 4)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Part immersion reportage, part memoir, Lauren Kessler's book shows that people with Alzheimer's are still capable of love, friendship, and humor. Unflinching and smart, repentant and honest, Dancing With Rose offers ways for all of us to connect with people at the end of their lives. I loved this book." Melissa Fay Greene, author of There's No Me Without You and Praying for Sheetrock
"Lauren Kessler has confronted the horror of Alzheimer's in the most direct and courageous way possible: After losing a mother to the disease, she went to work as a low-wage aide in an Alzheimer's facility. Dancing With Rose is itself a kind of miracle of caring: She manages to humanize the victims and shine a clear, compassionate, light on those who struggle to care for them. Anyone affected by the disease—and that's almost everyone — has to read this book!" Barbara Ehrenreich, author of Nickel and Dimed and Bait and Switch
"Lauren Kessler, who sent her parent away to a 'care facility' as so many of us do, here attempts a small act of atonement. But she achieves much more. In taking us on her months-long visit to the foreign land of Alzheimer's (a place which embodies so many of our fears), Kessler helps the reader to see that people with this disease are people we can touch, speak to, empathize with, and — more than I had known was possible — understand." Ted Conover, Author of New Jack: Guarding Sing Sing and Coyotes
"Are you ready to step through the looking glass? Lauren Kessler's book gently walks you into the strange and unsettling world of middle and late-stage Alzheimer's. And she does it the way it should be done: with open eyes, complete honesty, and a true compassion — no cornball sentimentality, no pulled punches. It takes a special quality to turn a subject this agonizing into an absorbing read, and this book has it." David Shenk, author of The Forgetting
One journalists riveting — and surprisingly hopeful — in-the-trenches look at Alzheimers, the disease that claimed her mothers life.
Previously published in HC as Dancing With Rose
One journalist?s riveting?and surprisingly hopeful? in-the-trenches view of Alzheimer?s
Nearly five million people in the United States are living with Alzheimer?s. Like many children of Alzheimer?s sufferers, Lauren Kessler, an accomplished journalist, was devastated by the disease that seemed to erase her mother?s identity even before claiming her life. But suppose people with Alzheimer?s are not slates wiped blank. Suppose they experience friendship and loss, romance and jealousy, joy and sorrow? To better understand this debilitating condition, Kessler enlists as a bottom-of-the-rung caregiver at an Alzheimer?s facility and learns lessons that challenge what we think we know about the disease. A compelling, clear-eyed, and emotionally resonant narrative, Finding Life in the Land of Alzheimer?s offers a new optimistic look at what the disease can teach us and a much-needed tonic for those faced with providing care for someone they love.
One journalists riveting--and surprisingly hopeful--in-the-trenches look at Alzheimers, the disease that claimed her mothers life.
About the Author
Lauren Kessler is the author of five works of narrative nonfiction, including the Washington Post bestseller Clever Girl and the Los Angeles Times bestseller The Happy Bottom Riding Club. Her journalism has appeared in The New York Times Magazine, Los Angeles Times Magazine, O magazine, and The Nation. She directs the graduate program in literary nonfiction at the University of Oregon.
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