The basics: Veteran journalist Meryl Comer tells the story of her husband and mother dealing with Alzheimer's and advocates for change in how we care for those afflicted with Alzheimer's.
My thoughts: I was really excited to read this memoir, as Alzheimer's runs in my family, even though I was sure it would depress me as it's such a horrible disease. Instead, I soon found myself hating this book and rolled my eyes through most of it.
I like memoirs. I often call the memoirists I most enjoy brave because they bare their souls and show their weaknesses. They tell truths that aren't always told. They are honest about their faults. They share the moments of which they're proud and of those they aren't. Unfortunately, Meryl Comer does not do any of those things in this book. It's hard to even call it a memoir, as it utterly lacks reflection or emotion. After about fifty pages, I found myself referring to the author as "Saint Meryl" because she could do no wrong.
Comer begins by telling how she and her husband fell in love. I am a sucker for these stories, yet her writing didn't convey the love and passion she must have felt. Thus, when she transitioned to the initial decline of her husband's brain (he has early onset Alzheimer's, a particularly heinous disease in my opinion), it didn't have the emotional pull I would have expected. This book soon becomes more of a manifesto than a memoir, but by that point I was so irritated with Saint Meryl I didn't even care.
I missed book club last month, but I hear the reactions to this book were split. Some loved it and others hated it. I'm clearly in the hated camp, and it's a shame. There are many moving stories to tell about Alzheimer's, and Comer was positioned to do so. At the height of this book, she was single-handedly caring for both her husband and mother in her home as they both struggled with Alzheimer's. I wanted to sympathize with her plight, but Comer wouldn't acknowledge anything she did was hard.
When this book was first picked for book club, I typed it into Goodreads and two titles came up: this one and an erotica novel. I joked that I hoped we were reading the Alzheimer's memoir rather than the erotica. Half way through this book, I changed my mind.
The verdict: If you're looking for a manifesto advocating for changes in the healthcare system related to Alzheimer's with some personal story thrown in, then you might enjoy Slow Dancing with a Stranger. If you're looking for an emotional, reflective memoir about a spouse's battle with Alzheimer's, you'll likely find yourself rolling your eyes at Saint Meryl as much as I was. I wanted more emotional intimacy. I wanted more of this story rather than a general exercise with a familiar disease.
Rating: 1 out of 5
Length: 240 pages
Publication date: September 2, 2014
Convinced? Buy it! Buy Slow Dancing with a Stranger: Lost and Found in the Age of Alzheimer's from Amazon (Kindle edition.)
Want more? Visit Meryl Comer's website, like her on Facebook, and follow her on Twitter.
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