“What imperfect carriers of love we are, and what imperfect givers.”
When Ruth comes home to help care for her father, afflicted with Alzheimer’s a beautiful family story unfolds. By no means are they are perfect family, but my heart capsized when reading the notes her father wrote about her questioning mind when she was a child.“You scraped seeds off of bagels and planted them in the flower bed out front. I didn’t have the heart to tell you that there’s no such thing as a bagel tree. Today I thought: I’m nuts- I’m just nuts- about you.” I was nuts about her, such a curious, spirited little girl! All children should know such love and attention. Ruth has always adored her father, but she has been blind to his failings in ways her brother and mother haven’t. For them, the later years weren’t full of a happy husband and father. Maybe her memories are distorted by her enduring adoration of her dad. There has been drinking and cruelties she escaped, and in coming home, with her father’s memories slipping, in his confused state she realizes he wasn’t the most loyal husband nor sober father.
College students rally together to make sure he is able to feel important again, teaching is vital to his happiness- and this is one of the sweetest fictions an author has conjured. The novel manages to expose the rawness of family love. It’s a slow understanding that is revealed about Ruth’s mother and father’s complicated marriage as she spends time with him and his slipping memories. Who is the young woman that seems more intimate than she should when in his presence? Why is her mother so angry and yet, she cares for him so tenderly that she expels anything that risks his health. Not that her father much appreciates his wife’s nurturing. She wants to understand why her brother Theo is so mad at their father, but maybe she needs to face her own shame in not coming home sooner.
It’s a hard novel to review for me because it’s not a flashy story. Nothing big happens but it is something enormous isn’t it? The betrayal of one’s own mind slowly leaving you, what is more horrible? Unlike many fictional stories, with this one- there are ups and downs. It’s a decline but a slow one, and often that is how illness has it’s grasp on a family- particularly with Alzheimer’s disease. Memories can be mean and bite, but they can be beautiful and moving. There is not one perfect character, but that’s what makes it honest. Something about this family tugged at my heart, and I fell for them. I was fattened up by a father’s love for his little girl, and the bittersweet pain of seeing your parents as human beings rather than gods. Lovely. Add this title to your summer list.
Publication Date: July 11, 2017
Henry Holt & Company