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All Gone: A Memoir of My Mother's Dementia. With Refreshments (edition 2012)

by Alex Witchel

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Member:blueheronlanding
Title:All Gone: A Memoir of My Mother's Dementia. With Refreshments
Authors:Alex Witchel
Info:Riverhead Hardcover (2012), Hardcover, 224 pages
Collections:2012
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All Gone: A Memoir of My Mother's Dementia. With Refreshments by Alex Witchel

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Showing 1-5 of 17 (next | show all)
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
A good book about a mother/daughter relationship! It was a difficult read, often sad, but just shows the way a daughter learns to accept her mother's challenges and accepts her mother's illness as it is: life-changing and with everyday being a new day to face obstacles. Overall, a wonderful memoir! ( )
  booksintheburbs | Mar 19, 2013 |
A heartfelt book about a daughter, who was exceptionally close to her mother, and the mother who had sufffered a series of small strokes and whose memory was slowly eroding. Hoping to help her mother, who had always taken pride in how she took care of her family, she began to cook with her hoping to spark her old memories. Sad in parts, a very able woman slowly fading away and yet also very perceptive in reallizing that to help her mother she has to be willing to let her go. My mom is still alive, thank the lord, in reasonable health, but so much of this book reminded me of my mother and I that at time is was very eerie. ( )
  Beamis12 | Feb 13, 2013 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
This little book captivated me. My own mother is in her late eighties, and, as it happens, her memory has changed and dimmed with life and age. However, she has forty years on me, and I have memory issues, too. I read books like "Where Did I Leave My Glasses" by Martha Weinman Lear and Nora Ephron's "I Remember Nothing". Alzheimer's runs in my family, so I am constantly reading about it and looking for signs and symptoms of its early onset, and preparing for it like it is inevitable.

So "All Gone: A Memoir of My Mother's Dementia. With Refreshments" by Alex Witchel struck a chord, because it addresses the dementation of a particular woman, not quite as old as my mom, who went from being extremely competent and capable, to being largely mentally incapacitated in a very short time, and-- this being most important-- it was not due to Alzheimer's.

In fact, at the root of her dementia was a series of tiny strokes. The book explores the journey as mother and daughter learn about the damage, the prognosis, and the process of moving from competency to a new way of being. The set-up was the daughter, the author, learning to cook the old favorite foods for which the mother was responsible, even though her mother never prepared the recipes exactly as written, or the recipes weren't written at all.

Despite my own Jewish background, I was raised Catholic, and I have no experience of the foods of which Witchel speaks, so I didn't feel as "close" to the material as someone with a background similar to hers might. I didn't "smell" or "taste" the food as I read. Those parts did not particularly interest me. But the discourse between mother and daughter, watching the complicated relationship develop, evolve, change over time, was terribly interesting to me, even if the parties involved looked nothing like my family at first glance.

Although Witchel's mother declines throughout the book, I was very grateful that she ended before the "inevitable" conclusion; she stops writing before her mother stops living, or stops functioning. I was grateful because, through this book, I had grown to appreciate both the characters and their relationships, and although I knew that they would have to end, I was glad to be spared watching it happen.

This may not a work of great import, but I enjoyed it, and I'm not a bit sorry that I took the time to read it.
  kschloss | Nov 8, 2012 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
You count on your mom to always be there for you. Even when you're an adult, you count on her remaining the person who once upon a time tucked you in at night, kissed away boo-boos, made your favorite dinner for your birthday, and celebrated all your accomplishments small or large. But when that mom starts to disappear into the smothering fog of dementia, you have to mourn the loss of the bed-tucking, boo-boo-kissing, dinner-cooking, celebratory mom long before she is actually gone. Alex Witchel's brief memoir All Gone: A Memoir of My Mother's Dementia, With Refreshments chronicles the painful way in which an adult child has to say goodbye to the mom of memory long before time and the way in which, even though that mom is trapped inside the malfunctioning synapses of her own brain, Witchel can still keep her close in her heart and in her kitchen.

Written non-linearly, this memoir deals with the present day tasks of taking care of an aging and ill parent, memories of Witchel's childhood, and a few recipes that she remembers her mother cooking. While the three are connected, they are not necessarily integrated together well. Witchel's initial denial, sorrowful acceptance, and frustration with the disease claiming her mother's past, present, and even her very personality is presented honestly and bare of embellishment. The portion of the memoir dealing with the slow slide of her mother's disappearance into dementia is the most poignant, best written of the memoir. The portions of Witchel's childhood are occasionally instructive of her relationship with her mother but often that connection is hard to make and so the bouncing between childhood and the present can feel disjointed.

The third bit of the book, and one that I expected, given the subtitle, to take more precedence deals with Witchel cooking the recipes she remembers her mother making, finding comfort in the comfort food of their family. While we all have a visceral connection to the food of our childhood, it seemed an odd way for her to conjure up the mother of her youth given that her mother seemingly didn't like to cook. Her recipes feel as if they were all culled from newspaper columns or magazine aimed at the "new working woman" and the convenience that she would desire in facing dinnertime after putting in a full day at the office, not as if they were treasured family recipes. And often the recipes are plunked at the end of the chapters with little or no tie to the content of the chapter. As a concept, the connection of food with memories of childhood and the present reality of a mother shrouded in dementia is a natural one and there are moments when Witchel gets it right. Unfortunately, there were more moments for me where she doesn't quite get there. ( )
  whitreidtan | Oct 29, 2012 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
I was looking forward to reading this book but was ultimately disappointed. It was if the author couldn't decide what the book was supposed to be - a memoir of her childhood, a book about her mother's dementia, a foodie memoir, etc. Because of this I found the writing scattered and not always engaging. ( )
  julko | Oct 26, 2012 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 159448791X, Hardcover)

A daughter’s longing love letter to a mother who has slipped beyond reach.

Just past seventy, Alex Witchel’s smart, adoring, ultracapable mother began to exhibit undeniable signs of dementia. Her smart, adoring, ultracapable daughter reacted as she’d been raised: If something was broken, they would fix it. But as medical reality undid that hope, and her mother continued the torturous process of disappearing in plain sight, Witchel retreated to the kitchen, trying to reclaim her mother at the stove by cooking the comforting foods of her childhood: “Is there any contract tighter than a family recipe?” 

Reproducing the perfect meat loaf was no panacea, but it helped Witchel come to terms with her predicament, the growing phenomenon of “ambiguous loss ”— loss of a beloved one who lives on. Gradually she developed a deeper appreciation for all the ways the parent she was losing lived on in her, starting with the daily commandment “Tell me everything that happened today” that started a future reporter and writer on her way. And she was inspired to turn her experience into this frank, bittersweet, and surprisingly funny account that offers true balm for an increasingly familiar form of heartbreak.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:55:27 -0400)

Just past 70, Witchel's smart, adoring, ultracapable mother began to exhibit undeniable signs of dementia. But as medical reality undid hope, Witchel retreated to the kitchen to come to terms with her predicament.

(summary from another edition)

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