My rating: 3 of 5 stars
I tore through this book at the speed of light, and I’m a slow reader. So, yes, I was engrossed in it and thought the characters were interesting, but I think a lot of it had to do with thinking about my grandmother and what her experience with dementia has been like. And pondering whether as I get old (god willing, as they say), it will be my mind or my body to falter first. It was just the sort of thing I like to pick apart in my own mind, but I didn’t think there was much surprising about the plot.
We discussed this book at my book club meeting yesterday. Some of us felt like it was an accurate portrayal of the way things progress in Alzheimer’s and dementia. It seemed accurate to me, although I don’t actually spend a lot of time with my grandmother. It was sort of reassuring to think that my grandmother, although unable to participate in conversation anymore, really does just enjoy having people who are familiar to her nearby, chatting, happy. It’s undoubtedly a good thing to be around. And that’s the biggest conflict in the book – to be around or not to be around as someone you love loses all memory of her life and of you.
I feel like the butterfly analogy was pretty compelling. “Old Alice,” before illness, was the caterpillar, chugging along and getting work done – incredibly intelligent but not very close to her husband and children. “New Alice” lost her intellect but forged new bonds with the people she loved because she started analyzing less and feeling more. The butterfly! And it was better that way. Old, cerebral Alice couldn’t even fathom that life without memories was bearable, and schemed to be sure to commit suicide when she started truly forgetting everything. New, feeling Alice thought life was pretty good – spending time with the people that cared about her, even though she wasn’t quite sure who they were, was worth living for. And don’t forget ice cream! 🙂