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The Theft of Memory: Losing My Father, One…
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The Theft of Memory: Losing My Father, One Day at a Time

by Jonathan Kozol

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This was the first book I won through a Goodreads giveaway! Although I thought there was a lot of emotion behind this book, which I admired so much, the end result was a little disjointed and disorganized. I loved all of the material concerning his father and his mother as they were struggling through their old age, as well as all of the anecdotes about their various caretakers. However, there were some parts about Dr. Kozol that Jonathan wrote that seemed an awful lot like "here's some stuff that my father did that I found in his files." These sections weren't compelling, perhaps because of the second hand way it was told. Although I'm sure Dr. Kozol's relationships with Eugene O'Neill, Patty Hearst, and the Boston strangler were interesting, the manner in which they were presented here was lacking in urgency and personality. ( )
  Katie_Roscher | Jan 18, 2019 |

I listened to this book as an audiobook, read wonderfully by Sean Runnette. This is the story of the author's relationship with his father (with both his parents, really), in his father's final years, as his decline from Alzheimer's takes its inevitable toll.

Jonathan Kozol is an educator and established writer in his own right, often writing about the state of education in the United States. His father, Dr. Harry Kozol was a neuropsychiatrist, highly respected and accomplished in his field. His clients included some rather high-profile names, as well, but, as his son Jonathan recounts, in going through his father's papers, notes and files, the elder Kozol was a highly ethical man in his dealings with all his patients and always treated everyone with the same care and respect. I did wonder about some of the details revealed about some of those high profile patients, but I am going to assume that Kozol, being a seasoned writer himself, did due diligence when it came to permissions and patient confidentiality, I enjoyed the trips down memory lane for Jonathan, as he revealed his father's (and to a lesser degree, his mother's) early lives. Both parents lived long, full lives (both dying at 100+ years). This memoir chronicles with great love, lives well-lived and the tragedy of this insidious disease. He also chronicles the tremendous amount of care (and expense) required to allow a life of dignity to proceed to its natural end. He was fortunate that he had the resources, financial and otherwise, to allow this to happen for his parents, as I suspect that many - maybe most - people would not have such means available to them. The quality of care, too, for the very elderly, and infirm, is another source of very real concern, as Kozol experienced first hand from his father's primary physicians. I wish this was an area of medicine that was making better progress, as we age, ourselves. Overall, I enjoyed this book. The reader's voice was excellent, soft-spoken, and loving. ( )
  jessibud2 | Feb 5, 2017 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
Moving exploration of Kozol's experience and insights while dealing with his father's mental decline. I was sucked in by the first few pages, which reminded of the TED talk by Jill Bolte Taylor, a brain researcher who describes experiencing her own stroke from the perspective of a professional. This story could be of interest to anyone who has (either personally or with a loved one) lived through the strange experience of losing mental touch with who and how someone used to be. Those who've dealt with brain tumors and cancer, traumatic brain injuries, or brain surgeries for other reasons will come away from this book with lots to think about... 5/5 stars. ( )
  Fullmoonblue | Feb 24, 2016 |
This book is helpful for those of us in similar situations, but not a guide to dealing with aging parents. It was never intended as such. Instead it is a biography of the author's father, a labor of love, and it needs to be read and understood in that context. ( )
  Michael_Lilly | Oct 28, 2015 |
(211) ( )
  activelearning | Oct 3, 2015 |
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For Matthew

with deepest gratitude
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My father was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease in 1994 when he was eighty-eight years old.
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I know the time has long passed when doctors, no matter what their specialty might be, would interrupt their private lives so willingly, in order to fulfill their sense of obligation to a patient. Maybe it's beyond all reason to regret the passing of that era. Still, I wished the doctor at the nursing home had retained a little more of that tradition of attentiveness. I would come to have the same wish later on about another geriatrician my father would rely upon. I never felt they gave him back in full, or even in small part, what he had given once unstintingly to people who had placed their trust in him.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0804140979, Hardcover)

National Book Award winner Jonathan Kozol is best known for his fifty years of work among our nation’s poorest and most vulnerable children. Now, in the most personal book of his career, he tells the story of his father’s life and work as a nationally noted specialist in disorders of the brain and his astonishing ability, at the onset of Alzheimer’s disease, to explain the causes of his sickness and then to narrate, step-by-step, his slow descent into dementia.
 
Dr. Harry Kozol was born in Boston in 1906. Classically trained at Harvard and Johns Hopkins, he was an unusually intuitive clinician with a special gift for diagnosing interwoven elements of neurological and psychiatric illnesses in highly complicated and creative people. “One of the most intense relationships of his career,” his son recalls, “was with Eugene O’Neill, who moved to Boston in the last years of his life so my father could examine him and talk with him almost every day.”
 
At a later stage in his career, he evaluated criminal defendants including Patricia Hearst and the Boston Strangler, Albert H. DeSalvo, who described to him in detail what was going through his mind while he was killing thirteen women.
 
But The Theft of Memory is not primarily about a doctor’s public life. The heart of the book lies in the bond between a father and his son and the ways that bond intensified even as Harry’s verbal skills and cogency progressively abandoned him. “Somehow,” the author says, “all those hours that we spent trying to fathom something that he wanted to express, or summon up a vivid piece of seemingly lost memory that still brought a smile to his eyes, left me with a deeper sense of intimate connection with my father than I’d ever felt before.”
 
Lyrical and stirring, The Theft of Memory is at once a tender tribute to a father from his son and a richly colored portrait of a devoted doctor who lived more than a century.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:21:20 -0400)

"Departing from the South Bronx and turning his sensitive eye to his own life and legacy, The Theft of Memory is Kozol's most personal book to date, as it explores the life of his father, Harry. Dr. Harry L. Kozol was a nationally-renowned neurologist whose work helped establish the emerging fields of forensic psychiatry and neuropsychiatry. He was a remarkable clinician with unusual capacity to diagnose and identify neurological and psychotic illnesses in highly complicated and sophisticated people, including well-known artists, writers, and intellectuals. With the same lyricism and clarity that have defined Kozol's acclaimed work on education for decades,The Theft of Memory intimately describes Harry's vibrant life, the challenges following his self-diagnosis of Alzheimer's, and the evolution of their relationship throughout."--… (more)

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