Be glad in the Lord and rejoice! Psalm 32:11

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Book Review - The Living End: A Memoir of Forgetting and Forgiving by Robert Leleux

I'm so pleased today to share a wonderful book with you - one full of humor, love, a little sadness and a great deal of inspiration!

Author Robert Leleux’s grandmother JoAnn was one tough cookie. She was one of those venerable steel magnolias - an elegant and sophisticated lady with a tongue and a wit that could strip paint off a wall. She was generously affectionate to those who basked in her favor, but strangely indifferent at times to the emotional needs of those closest to her.

When after what seemed to be a needless surgery, JoAnn began exhibiting signs of dementia that would be diagnosed as Alzheimer’s and soon this previously sharp, sophisticated lady was lost to the haze of this hateful disease. This was devastating to her beloved husband Alfred, and soon, as their only grandson, Robert found himself thrust into the role of caretaker of his grandmother.

It is an occurrence that is taking place more and more often these days as more elderly succumb to the rigors of Alzheimer’s. What makes Robert LeLeux’s situation different is that, amazingly, he found something of a silver lining in the midst of the tragedy, and he recounts that experience in his book, "The Living End: A Memoir of Forgetting and Forgiving."

At the time of the onset of her condition, Robert’s grandmother had been estranged from her daughter Jessica for nearly 30 years – I mean the deep-down, don’t speak to each other or mention each other’s names, kind of estrangement. But as JoAnn’s condition deteriorated, and she lost most of her memories, surprisingly enough, she forgot that she was angry at her daughter.  All the old animosities were gone, and suddenly JoAnn was a kinder, gentler version of herself that no one had ever imagined. She was finally able to open her arms to her daughter and welcome her back into her life like nothing had ever happened.

Now, while it wasn’t quite as easy for Robert’s mother to get over the decades of anger and hurt, she grew to realize that this was a perfect opportunity to get to know her mother once again, and for both of them to forgive and forget before it was too late.

“The Living End” is a gently funny accounting of one family’s experience with the pain and tragedy of Alzheimer’s disease, but it is also an endearingly powerful testament to the strength and dedication of giving care and comfort to loved ones who are gripped by this disease. Beautifully written with plenty of humor and plenty of love, this small volume should be required reading for anyone whose family is experiencing the day to day struggles of caretaking.

About The Author:

Robert and his beloved grandmother JoAnn

Robert Leleux is the author of The Memoirs of a Beautiful Boy.  His essays and articles have appeared in many publications, including The New York Times and The New York Times Magazine.  Robert is currently at work on his second book, The Living End, to be published next year by St. Martin's Press, and an oral history of Texas legend Sissy Farenthold.

For information on Robert's writing and upcoming projects, check out his website at http://www.robertleleux.com/

I was introduced to this book by my good friend, Kathy Patrick of the Pulpwood Queens, and I'm so glad that she did.  My thanks also to Jessica Preeg at St. Martins Press for supplying a review copy of this book. I was not compensated for my opinion.

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