Posts Tagged ‘Alzheimer’s Disease’

Best ‘New to Us’ Books in 2014: Radhika R’s Picks

December 30, 2014

Albert Einstein said  that “Imagination is more important  than intelligence!”  Books fire that imagination for me! Books make me think, laugh, empathize and take me through a gamut of emotions. I travel around the world from the the comfort of my couch!  Here are a few of them which I enjoyed reading.

MadoMadonnas of Leningradnnas of Leningrad by Debra Dean
A story of love, suffering and helplessness. Marina is rendered helpless when she is affected by Alzheimer’s. While she has difficulty remembering her children or grandchildren, she remembers clearly the 40 day siege of Leningrad, and how she overcame it. As a museum docent, she helped to hide countless priceless works of art from the invading Nazis, all the time creating a “memory palace” in her mind in which to cherish their beauty. These memories and those of the works of art she saved are juxtaposed with the present, where she regularly forgets her own granddaughter. A very sad, poignant story of an Alzheimer’s patient and how the caretakers the family members stand by helplessly while their loved one’s mind is slowly shutting down on the immediate present. A very touching read.  Read another review.

Burial RitesBurial Rites by Hannah Kent
This book explores the grey areas in life. Not every situation can be put into boxes of right or wrong. It makes us think and ponder and feel gut wrenching emotions for all the characters. It is a true, but fictionalized story of the last beheading in Iceland. In 1829, Agnes Magnusdottir is sentenced to death by beheading for the brutal murder of two men. Because there are no local prisons, Agnes is sent to the remotest village to await her execution while living with a farming family. The family is wary of Agnes and takes time to adjust to her presence. The farmer’s wife, slowly thawing towards Agnes, comes to hear her story and is devastated when she realizes there is nothing that anyone can do to save Agnes. The story is told compellingly in different voices and makes you feel the pain and the helplessness of the circumstances.

Defending JacobDefending Jacob by William Landay
Andy Barber, happily married to Laurie and a district attorney in a small New England town, is at a crossroads of his life. He is investigating the murder of a young teen boy, Ben, despite the fact that there might be a conflict of interest – Ben was his son Jacob’s friend, and attended the same school. From here starts the real roller coaster journey! When Jacob is accused of the murder, Andy and Laurie’s world reels. This book explores questions many will never ask. How much do we know about our children? Where does love end, and practicality begin? How do we even begin to imagine what the truth is, whether our child is capable of taking a life… a parent’s worst nightmare come to the fore! What will it take a parent even to accept that it is a possibility? Why is it that when tragedy strikes, all relationships start to unravel? An intriguing piece of fiction where legal implications mesh with family emotions.  Read another review.

The Garlic BalladsThe Garlic Ballads by Yan Mo
This novel is the Nobel Prize winner in Literature for the year 2012, and it is rightly so. The angst, worry, fear hope and helplessness of poverty is so well portrayed that we can actually envision ourselves in the pages of the book and live with the characters, wondering how they survive in those circumstances! The farmers of Paradise County have been leading hard, miserable lives for centuries when the government asks them to plant garlic. The farmers do so, but find it hard to sell. At the mercy of corrupt government officials, the farmers are forced to pay money they don’t have in order to sell their wares, but find that after paying the various taxes and tolls, their crops remain unsold. This is the breaking point for many of the farmers, leading to riots and arrests, followed by inhumane conditions in jail, torture and beatings. An old bard sings the song of tyranny throughout this book, and is killed for it. This book is not just about human suffering and despair, but also filled with tales of family love, loyalty and hope! In the midst of desolation, each character finds a reason to live. This is truly an amazing read, where depths of despair and the upliftment of spirit reside side by side

I am MalalaI am Malala by Malala Yousafzai and Christian Lamb
Most of us have read about Malala and may feel we know her story. This book made me think differently. Malala was born to parents who were strong supporters of women’s rights and had a school of their own for girls. Raised with this mindset, Malala was determined to do her part, and her parents supported her decision. All of them knew that Malala’s bravery would ultimately mean facing the wrath of the Taliban when it took over their Swat Valley. Her parents, who knew the danger their child faced every day, made the difficult choice to support her, and Malala chose to stay the course despite unimaginable pressure. You know the story – Malala was shot – but thankfully, she survived to become a spokesperson for the rights of girls to an education. This review is a salute to all the young girls and women who have fought against the Taliban atrocities for the right to a just life and education, and paved the way for Malala to bring their cause to the attention of the world. Kudos to Malala, a brave young girl who took such a bold, courageous step to improve lives of other girls and fight for their right to education! It is rightly said that the strength of human spirit always humbles you!

Still Alice by Lisa Genova

November 16, 2012

Imagine heading out for a run, following the same route you’ve traveled for years. Yet you suddenly, inexplicably, realize you’re lost – none of the landmarks you’re passing look familiar. This is how Still Alice by Lisa Genova begins.

Alice, a renowned Harvard professor and researcher of cognitive psychology learns she has early-onset Alzheimer’s. The story unfolds from Alice’s perspective, chronicling her gradual decline. Life as she, her family, and her colleagues know it is unraveling, slowly but surely. Slowly, she loses the ability to perform her job, to navigate her way home, to carry on a conversation. As she struggles to understand the eventualities of her diagnoses, Alice also searches for ways to make her experience less difficult, not only for herself, but also for her family. Though the end of the novel is known from the beginning, it’s one which keeps the reader turning the pages, often with tears.

What makes Still Alice remarkable is the first person narrative. As the reader, you experience the gradual descent into a foreign place, one where you are lost and terrified. As Alice’s disease progresses, slowed by medication but ultimately not halted, you find yourself confused at times – both by the lapse in time, as well as the events that preceded a chapter. This is entirely intentional on Genova’s part, and just one of the ways in which this book in nothing short of brilliantly crafted. Genova is a masterful writer who also happens to be a Harvard neuroscientist who has studied Alzheimer’s exhaustively. She is also the author of Left Neglected, and her upcoming book Love, Anthony is due to be released shortly. Still Alice reads as if it’s the memoir of an individual with Alzheimer’s – it is a book that will change the way you look at this disease forever. It is a beautiful, heart-breaking, terrifying book all rolled into one.

Find and reserve this book in our catalog.

The Madonnas of Leningrad by Debra Dean

March 16, 2010

This inspiring story of remarkable endurance proved to be one of the most discussable reads for the Book Club lately. The Madonnas of Leningrad is a poignant tale of one woman’s harrowing experiences during the 900-day Siege of Leningrad in WWII, alternating with her present-day life struggle with Alzheimer’s disease.

In 1941, Marina Krasnova is a young museum guide at the magnificent Hermitage Museum. Anticipating a German attack, the museum staff work night and day to pack the priceless masterpieces to be transported to safety. When the bombings begin, the staff and their families seek refuge in the cellars of the museum, and not long after, starvation, disease, and desperation reduce their numbers. To escape the suffering of their daily lives, Marina and her friend, Anya, build in their minds a “memory palace,” burning into their memories each room and the artworks that formerly graced them. As she walks from room to room, Marina sees past the empty gilt frames and sees again the grandeur of each painting– the Rembrandts, the Da Vincis, the Carravagios, and hundreds more. To Marina, they were all part of her life and what sustained her in the darkest days. Amidst the bombings, she continues to hope that she will once again see her beloved Dmitri, the soldier she has fallen in love with and the father of the child she is carrying.

In the present day, Marina, now Mrs. Buriakov and in her 80s, is ravaged by Alzheimer’s. Her memories of her children and recent events are in tatters, but memories of her Leningrad days are as vivid as always. As her faculties continue to degenerate, her mind takes her back to the days of the siege–back to her “memory palace” and the extraordinary paintings and events that defined her life. Her husband and children grow increasingly concerned, and when she disappears one day, it becomes the catalyst for her daughter, Elena’s, search for her own identity and meaning in life, as well as a deeper understanding of her mother.

I think the best part of the novel is the way it jumps in time. Dean seamlessly weaves the past and the present together; there is one point in the novel where Marina is sitting at her granddaughter’s wedding, and before the reader realizes it, Marina has been taken back to Leningrad and watching a different wedding at a different time. Dean is an exceptionally talented writer and it shines through in The Madonnas of Leningrad.

Click here to find this book in our catalog.


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