Sunday, April 12, 2015

Dancing with Rose by Lauren Kessler

In some ways, Lauren Kessler's Dancing with Rose picks up where Lisa Genova's Still Alice left off. Genova left Alice sitting in her kitchen, aware she was sinking deeper into Alzheimer's. Dancing with Rose looks at it from the caretaker's point of view. However, it's nonfiction, and Kessler takes readers into what happens when the Alzheimer's victim must finally go into a home.

Kessler's mother suffered from Alzheimer's, and Lauren didn't know how to cope. She tried to relieve her father of nursing duties by bringing her mother into a home near her, but it didn't last, and her father took her back east where she died. However, Kessler admits she never did understand her mother, one of those victims of World War II who successfully worked until she was forced to leave the workplace when the men returned. After her mother's death, Kessler felt guilty that she felt fear and detachment. As a journalist, she decided to explore the world of Alzheimer's.

Eight years after her mother's death, Lauren Kessler took an entry-level minimum wage job as a Resident Assistant in a facility she calls Maplewood. And, it was there that she learned what a brutally hard job it was for the RAs, but also what a rewarding job it was. She began to see the residents as individuals, as humans going through another stage of life. And, for the first time, she began to understand her own mother, and feel sorry for the woman who actually left herself behind before she suffered from the disease.

Dancing with Rose is a moving story of a daughter coming to terms with her own mother's loss of memory and life, her own fear of inheriting the disease, and her perceived failures as a daughter. It's a moving story that puts faces not only to the people who suffer from Alzheimer's, but also to the low-paid women who care for family members and parents. It's a thoughtful book that humanizes the ones who suffer from it, and the people who cope with the problems on a daily basis. Lauren Kessler did her penance for her lack of feeling for her mother. Though no one truly understands those who suffer from Alzheimer's, Kessler does her best to make the reader see the victims as people who are still leading lives, just different lives than they once experienced.

Dancing with Rose: Finding Life in the Land of Alzheimer's by Lauren Kessler. Viking. 2007. ISBN 9780670039596 (hardcover), 260p.

FTC Full Disclosure - Library book.


Mason Canyon said...

Sounds like a remarkable book that will help people better understand how this terrible disease effects so many, including the family members of those with Alzheimer's.

Kay said...

Both my parents had some very gifted and caring individuals who worked with them. My father's care center had a wonderful activities director and assistant. Those ladies were angels and provided so much stimulation for the residents through music and games and all kinds of things. They also ran the support group that my mother and I attended. It's a tough road for everyone involved. But, the patients are still people and you just have to figure out a different way to interact with them. Thanks for sharing about this book, Lesa.

Lesa said...

It was a fascinating book, Mason. We read it for our book group this month or I never would have heard of the book.

Lesa said...

Kay, the author as so complimentary about the activities director at "Maplewood". It can' the an easy job. That's so good that your parent had wonderful people to work itch them.

Susan said...

I read this book several years ago and it has stuck with me. A very insightful, moving story.

Lesa said...

When a book sticks with you that long, Susan, it shows how powerful it is.

Reine said...

Lesa, this is one of a very few nonfiction books I've been tempted to read since graduate school. Its topic is one that I'd like to know more about—and—it looks interesting. Without the interesting part I wouldn't feel ready!

For years all I read was nonfiction and couldn't understand why anyone would enjoy fiction. I was a brainless reader of the supposed real. But now I no longer find myself disguising my book covers on the M2 shuttle between Boston and Cambridge. Fiction, I have learned, reveals the real better than reality ever can do.

Lesa said...

Reine, Our book group discussed it tonight. We had four people there who have dealt with it in their families, and they all thought the book was excellent. It was one of the few books we all appreciated, and we never even got to any questions. We just talked about it for almost the entire hour and a half. I can't promise you'll like it, though. But, it was interesting.