From the author of the much-loved memoir Cottage for Sale, Must Be Moved comes an engaging and inspiring account of a daughter who must face her mother’s premature decline.
In Remembering the Music, Forgetting the Words, Kate Whouley strips away the romantic veneer of mother-daughter love to bare the toothed and tough reality of caring for a parent who is slowly losing her mind. Yet, this is not a dark or dour look at the demon of Alzheimer’s. Whouley shares the trying, the tender, and the sometimes hilarious moments in meeting the challenge also known as Mom.
As her mother, Anne, falls into forgetting, Kate remembers for her. In Anne we meet a strong-minded, accidental feminist with a weakness for unreliable men. The first woman to apply for - and win - a department-head position in her school system, Anne was an innovative educator who poured her passion into her work. House-proud too, she made certain her Hummel figurines were dusted and arranged just so. But as her memory falters, so does her housekeeping. Surrounded by stacks of dirty dishes, piles of laundry, and months of unopened mail, Anne needs Kate’s help - but she doesn’t want to relinquish her hard-won independence any more than she wants to give up smoking.
Time and time again, Kate must balance Anne’s often nonsensical demands with what she believes are the best decisions for her mother’s comfort and safety. This is familiar territory for anyone who has had to help a loved one in decline, but Kate finds new and different ways to approach her mother and her forgetting. Shuddering under the weight of accumulating bills and her mother’s frustrating, circular arguments, Kate realizes she must push past difficult family history to find compassion, empathy, and good humor.
When the memories, the names, and then the words begin to fade, it is the music that matters most to Kate’s mother. Holding hands after a concert, a flute case slung over Kate’s shoulder, and a shared joke between them, their relationship is healed - even in the face of a dreaded and deadly diagnosis. “Memory,” Kate Whouley writes, “is overrated.”
©2011 Kate Whouley (P)2012 Audible, Inc.
"Remembering the Music, Forgetting the Words made me want to go hug my mother. It also made me want to go hug Kate Whouley for her generous, fearless and spot-on recounting of a mother-daughter relationship during its most tragic yet poignantly beautiful years." (Suzanne Strempek Shea, author of Sundays In America)
"An exceptional memoir that reminds us - often with surprising humor - of the richness of life in good times and bad. Remembering the Music, Forgetting the Words is great companion for caregivers." (David Dosa MD, author of Making Rounds With Oscar)
Catherine Gaffney is an excellent narrator. Kate Whouley is a brilliant writer. as someone who is living with a person with dementia, I found Kate's book to be insightful, encouraging, and compassionate. I'd often find myself recounting certain sections of the book to my husband, saying, "Kate's mom reminds me of dad." or, "Did you know people with dementia [fill in the blank]. That is just like dad."
I found reading Whouley's previous on book, about grafting the cottage she bought in another town onto her own house, gave some background, but this book can stand alone; her mom didn't feature much in it, and her symptoms hadn't appeared then.
What to expect from "Music"? It's really a memoir of Whouley's life, with a focus on her relationship with her mother, rather than a strict focus on the disease itself. By the end of the book, her mother is still functioning ok, if not great, mentally, with unrelated medical problems coming into play. I have to admit that while Kate does a good job of going into her mother's story, I wasn't all that drawn to the woman. So, though I felt for the author's situation, I'm not sure I fully appreciated her mother as sufferer (if you will). Likely that sounds harsh, but after reading the book, might be clearer what I meant.
The writing itself flows well, with Whouley effectively conveying the high and low points, neither saccharine, nor grim. Still, the book was a long read, not drawn out exactly, but perhaps a bit too much attention to detail?
As for the narration, I felt Gaffney was a very good fit as a reader -- definitely felt as though Kate were telling her story, rather than hearing it read to me.
I'm Audible's first Editor-at-Large, the host of In Bed with Susie Bright -- and a longtime author, editor, journo, and bookworm. I listen to audio when I'm cooking, playing cards, knitting, going to bed, waking up, driving, and putting other people's kids to bed! My favorite audiobooks, ever, are: "True Grit" and "The Dog of the South."
My heart goes out to Kate Whouley, who tells the story of taking care of her mother with dementia against mind-boggling odds.
It's not always “fun,” as in the Rescue Me TV episode when the chief's wife develops Alzheimer's and throws a disco party for her gay son, despite her husband’s homophobia. The reality is unlike anything seen on TV. At one point, Whouley's mother has stopped bathing, and the author has to go through elaborate manipulations just to give her a sponge bath. Anyone’s who’s been there knows what it’s like to be brought to your knees.
Kate is at peace with what eventually happened—but her journey to get there is a tremendous insight into anyone dealing with end-of-life family care.
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