Kirkus Book Review
Hanley tells the story of her mother’s dementia and her parents’ love in this affecting memoir.
Bernadette McDonough was heading to the beauty parlor when she forgot where she was. Peter, her husband of almost 55 years, found her walking aimlessly. Following a series of examinations, Bernadette was diagnosed with vascular dementia. The family watched her cognition decline; she struggled to remember what month it was. The author chronicles her parents’ courtship in 1940s Manhattan and marriage, detailing Peter’s grand romantic gestures, like placing a boulder outside their home into which he inscribed: “Come live with me, the best is yet to be.” At breakfast, he wrote poetry for his wife on a napkin. After Peter died, these simple, affectionate poems became a rare source of pleasure for Bernadette in her dementia; one reads: “THOUGH TIME / GOES FAST / AND PROBLEMS / COME TOO / MY LOVE / WILL LAST / AND ONLY / FOR YOU.” Illustrated with Peter’s napkin poems and family photographs, the memoir pays tribute to a couple’s enduring affection. Hanley’s depiction of caregiving will be recognizable to readers who’ve adopted similar roles; she likens herself to a sports spectator observing a competitive match between dementia and love: “Dementia had won the blue-ribbon prize physically—but my dad’s love, in poetic words, had beaten dementia at its own, unfair game.”
– Kirkus Reviews