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The Forgetting: Alzheimer's: Portrait of an Epidemic
by David Shenk
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0385498381, Paperback)First attracted to his subject by its horrific ability to destroy the human mind and body, journalist David Shenk ultimately finds reasons to accept Alzheimer's disease--and almost forgive it--in The Forgetting. Shenk describes his work as a biography, the life story of a biological outlaw that sends victims "on a slow but certain trajectory toward forgetting and death." But his illuminating portrait of this growing epidemic offers more than a basic chronology. Shenk begins with the disease's christening in 1906, when German physician Alois Alzheimer discovered mysterious tangles and plaques in the brain of a dead woman who in life had suffered severe memory loss and dementia. The tale unfolds to reveal a host of intriguing players: struggling scientists (the clever, the bullheaded, and the pharmaceutically endowed), politicians divided by opposing priorities, exhausted caregivers, and patients whose biological clocks virtually tick backward over an average eight-year period. It includes impossible twists: longer life expectancies and successful treatments for other diseases mean more cases of Alzheimer's will inevitably occur. Shenk's graceful synthesis of personal accounts (from Plato to Reagan) with a century-long search for answers and cures leads him to an impressive conclusion. Perhaps Alzheimer's disease is much like winter: "Once it is gone, we'll face less hardship, but we'll also have lost an important lens on life." --Liane Thomas
(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:18:38 -0400)
"Alzheimer's disease is a demographic time bomb. Since 1975, the number of Americans afflicted has risen from five hundred thousand to five million; over the next fifty years, an estimated eighty to one hundred million more people worldwide will succumb to it. But it is the story behind these numbers that makes The Forgetting such a landmark work. A magnificent synthesis of history, science, politics, psychology, and profound human drama, the book explores the nature of a disease that attacks not merely memory but the very core of our human identity." "Delving into such diverse areas as art history, literature, genetics, and neurobiology, David Shenk shows that Alzheimer's particular terror - the gradual eradication of memory and of mind - is as old as humankind itself. He convincingly posits that such historical figures as Ralph Waldo Emerson, Jonathan Swift, and Frederick Law Olmsted were caught in the disease's insidious grip. Moving portraits of contemporary patients, their families, and their caregivers drive home the sad pattern of regression Alzheimer's exacts, a pathology that eerily mirrors child development in reverse. Yet Shenk offers a well of empathy and understanding for families striving to better understand and come to terms with their loss."--BOOK JACKET.
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