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Review: The Theft of Memory

September 29, 2015

The Theft of Memory

Dr. Harry Kozol was a well known neurologist – one of the best in the field – and was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s at 88 years old.  His son, Jonathan, saw to his care (as well as to the care of his wife and Jonathan’s mother), with respect and admiration for all that his father had achieved.  During his storied career, Dr. Kozol treated Eugene O’Neill, testified in the Patty Hearst trial, interviewed the Boston Strangler, and participated in numerous studies.  Jonathan and his father were always close and the Alzheimer’s diagnosis helped them create an even stronger bond.

The Theft of Memory by Jonathan Kozol is a very personal book about caring for a beloved parent with Alzheimer’s.  Kozol traveled for work much of the time so he didn’t do the day-to-day care-giving but was around as often as possible.  He and his father’s caregivers always treated Dr. Kozol with respect and did what they could to help his last years be the best they could be.

As Kozol shares his experiences with his father’s care, he reflects on the life of the man he loves and admires.  He’s careful to give credit to the wonderful caregivers he was able to find and is frank about his struggles – financial as well as emotional.

I’ve long been a fan of Kozol for his work with underprivileged children and have found his writing to be powerful in the past so was anxious to read this book.  It’s hard to say you love a book that packs such an emotional punch but, I have to tell you, Kozol has written another important book.  It’s moving and heartfelt and relays such an important message. I freely admit to tearing up a time or two as I read this wonderful account of caring for an aging parent with dignity.  This is a must read for anyone dealing with Alzheimer’s.

Review copy provided by Penguin Random House.  I am an Indiebound Affliate.
18 Comments leave one →
  1. Lloyd Russell permalink
    September 7, 2015 2:16 am

    It sounds like a very good book for people who find themselves in that position.

    And I’m also reading We Never Asked for Wings. I’m on page 73 and am liking it.

    Lloyd (408) 348-4849

  2. September 29, 2015 6:52 am

    Reading about Alzheimer’s always breaks my heart. I haven’t read anything by Kozol so this one is on my list.

  3. Diane permalink
    September 29, 2015 6:52 am

    These kinds of stories are important. Glad u enjoyed it Kathy.

  4. September 29, 2015 8:23 am

    You’ve just described how I felt reading Being Mortal, so I know what you mean. Another book for my list…

  5. September 29, 2015 8:55 am

    Having lost my father-in-law to Alzheimer’s I’m sure I’d relate to this book. Thanks for sharing your thoughts about it.

  6. September 29, 2015 8:57 am

    Wow…I’m dealing with this same situation. My mom in law has dementia, and was moved to the same city we live in, then the Hubs three older sibs all disappeared. (My home is stairs everywhere, so we couldn’t have her live with us, and I have to say, her caregivers are angels and Saints…I don’t know how people do that job full time!!) Since Hub’s works long hours, with a rotten commute, it’s pretty much become my routine to take Mom for weekly hair appts, ,to all her medical appts., and just sort of hang around with her a couple times a week. She doesn’t know any of my kids anymore, I think sometimes she’s a little shaky on my husband, her youngest child, but she still talks about her three older ones. The name of her husband is gone, she talks a lot about her family, wondering why they never visit, but she’s referring to her mom, who died in 1981. I don’t think she knows how I’m related, but she sometimes knows my name and is always happy to see me. I think because I see her the most. It kills me to see the decline of this wonderful, kind, giving and caring woman. I understand why the three older kids only come to visit every couple months, its really hard to see her, but it still makes me angry. I see her a few times a week and the Hubs and I go every weekend. I’m still uncomfortable being the one who makes so many medical decisions for her, but all her doctors tell me it’s up to me, since I’m the one who’s with her. I used to try to involve all the siblings in any decisions, which was a pointless and frustrating exercise in futility! This may come back to bite me in the butt someday, but I know the Hubs always has my back. It’s hard being the ‘one in charge’ who has to email info to her children. How do you tell someone, “So, Mom’s seeing more people that don’t exist, and feeling tormented by them, she can’t remember your dad’s name, and , oh….btw, she’s also incontinent now…”?

  7. September 29, 2015 9:31 am

    I’ve noticed this book recently and wondered about it. I’ll probably pick it up at some point soon. Having dealt with this with both parents, I think it’s such a great thing when people who are gifted writers share their experience. Sadly, it’s a situation that many will find themselves in. I’ll fall back on my usual response about dealing with parents with Alzheimer’s and dementia – ‘there are many dark storm clouds, but you’ll find joy in unexpected places’. It’s a great responsibility and a privilege or at least it was for me. I have no regrets. But I miss them both.

    And may I add my recommendation to JoAnn’s regarding the book, Being Mortal. It’s a great book about a subject that many just don’t want to think about. But you should. 🙂

    • September 29, 2015 9:34 am

      Oh, and one more thing. For anyone who is dealing with this situation – like Kelly above – I’d be happy to correspond and talk with them. I do have experience in this area and my hope afterward was that I could help other caretakers who are dealing with this sad situation. Please feel free to shoot me an email.

  8. September 29, 2015 10:51 am

    I agree that it is hard to say you ‘enjoy’ a book with a heavy topic and love that you appreciate the importance. YES. I am sure that this book’s would hit me the same.

  9. September 29, 2015 12:34 pm

    I’ll have to check this author out. Great review! Adding to my wishlist.

  10. September 29, 2015 3:11 pm

    This sounds like something that would be good for others to read if dealing with aging parents with this disease.

  11. September 29, 2015 3:12 pm

    I lost my grandfather to Alzheimer’s – it’s such a heartbreaking disease. This sounds like a really powerful read that will speak to many of us.

  12. Patty permalink
    September 29, 2015 6:11 pm

    These stories are always so heartbreaking.

  13. September 29, 2015 9:52 pm

    This sounds so good but also sad and important. I love memoirs on these difficult topics — it gives them some emotional heft they can miss otherwise.

  14. September 30, 2015 12:43 am

    Wonderful, sensitive review, Kathy.

  15. September 30, 2015 7:17 am

    Alzheimer’s is one of those diseases that breaks my heart. I think it must be one of the most undignified and frustrating ways to die. I understand memory getting worse, as my health has done that to me, but to lose your entire sense of time, forget people you love…it makes me emotional just thinking about it.

  16. bookingmama permalink
    October 5, 2015 2:43 pm

    Wow! I’m wondering if I could read this one…..

  17. October 7, 2015 9:18 pm

    Definitely not something I can even think about at this point in life. I need to live in denial as long as possible.

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