Read The Geography of Memory: A Pilgrimage Through Alzheimer's by Jeanne Murray Walker Online


Award-winning poet Jeanne Murray Walker tells an extraordinarily wise, witty, and quietly wrenching tale of her mother's long passage into dementia. This powerful story explores parental love, profound grief, and the unexpected consolation of memory. While Walker does not flinch from the horrors of "the ugly twins, aging and death," her eye for the apt image provides a winAward-winning poet Jeanne Murray Walker tells an extraordinarily wise, witty, and quietly wrenching tale of her mother's long passage into dementia. This powerful story explores parental love, profound grief, and the unexpected consolation of memory. While Walker does not flinch from the horrors of "the ugly twins, aging and death," her eye for the apt image provides a window into unexpected joy and humor even during the darkest days. This is a multi-layered narrative of generations, faith, and friendship. As Walker leans in to the task of caring for her mother, their relationship unexpectedly deepens and becomes life-giving. Her mother's memory, which more and more dwells in the distant past, illuminates Walker's own childhood. She rediscovers and begins to understand her own past, as well as to enter more fully into her mother's final years. THE GEOGRAPHY OF MEMORY is not only a personal journey made public in the most engaging, funny, and revealing way possible, here is a story of redemption for anyone who is caring for or expecting to care for ill and aging parents-and for all the rest of us as well....

Title : The Geography of Memory: A Pilgrimage Through Alzheimer's
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9781455544981
Format Type : Hardcover
Number of Pages : 384 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

The Geography of Memory: A Pilgrimage Through Alzheimer's Reviews

  • Gina Ochsner
    2019-01-08 19:05

    Many have written about the slow ravages of Alzheimer's; few have written about the disease with the degree of courage, honesty, intelligence, and heart that Jeanne Murray Walker has. This book is a journey through so much more than "disease". Murray Walker ravels and unravels the complicated skeins of childhood, both hers and her mother's, as she knits that strange and ever elusive knot we call memory.

  • Ka
    2018-12-17 21:46

    Where do I begin? Perhaps the beginning. Last April, I met Jeanne Murray Walker at an event where I work and pre-ordered her book shortly after hearing about this book project. Just the details excited me, and I wasn't disappointed. Not at all.Jeanne Murray Walker's The Geography of Memory: A Pilgrimage Through Alzheimer's ought to be required reading for anyone who has a parent or loved one sliding into dementia or Alzheimer's. Walker approaches the subject with grace, love, and a human touch that is remarkable in its compassion. While she, like others, goes through the expected periods of anger and frustration that plague those who struggle with this gargantuan care-taking task, Walker is able to step back and examine the patterns that occur in her mother's communication. She's able to apply a rare mix of reflection on her childhood and understanding she's gleaned from life, study, teaching, and even her religious backgrounds to pen a beautifully written memoir that fully honors her mother and family, especially her sister, Julie.This is a book I could hardly put down for any reason! Walker is an award-winning poet, and her eloquent use of words translates wonderfully to prose. When she's feeling anger, it comes through loud and clear. When she is tickled by something, the reader laughs with her. Walker helps her readers feel every emotion she feels all the way through the book. Why, I even wanted to get up and go to Peru with her, and I've never wanted to go there in my life. Still don't, but for those few moments, I did. I really did.This is not a book for every audience, but it's surely a book for anyone who will ever deal with a soul who might experience the confusion of dementia. It's also for anyone who might like to understand how a brain might be working if it isn't spitting out what seem to be the right words at the right time. It's so lovely, so poignant, and yes, even gripping. I highly recommend Jeanne Murray Walker's The Geography of Memory.

  • Amy
    2019-01-07 22:49

    I really struggled with this book. I was happy when I won it in a giveaway, but then I postponed reading it because my mother's own pilgrimage with Alzheimer's, and consequently my own experience, makes it a tender subject. Finally, though, it rose to the top of my desired reads. I found the book to be more of Jeanne Murray Walker's memoir than a book about Alzheimer's. I suppose that's fitting in many ways. My own mother's loss of memory has increased my own replaying of memories. Still, I expected from the title a bit more about the disease. What was most difficult for me was when the author spoke of her sister. The author lives out of town and makes frequent trips to help care for her mother, while her sister lives in town. I interpreted her statements about her sister as dismissive about the daily work involved when you live in the same town and every day of your life changes, making regular routines of any kind a challenge. I don't want to judge the out-of-town adult child, but I also don't think a week here and there is to be honored above the adult child experiencing hours everyday. Neither should be elevated. The author seemed to share every amount of time she spent researching doctors or taxi services while sharing the hours her sister worked and could not be available. It just felt like a strange game of keeping track. From my perspective, there's no room to keep track. It takes all you have all the time. It takes a lot of grace. When her in-town sister fires a doctor, the out-of-town sister needs to listen instead of saying they agreed to make all the decisions together as if it's all black and white and there is time to do that. You just can't be involved in every detail if you're not present. That's not bad, just different and requires a realistic view. I'm glad the author could stay in Europe and finish teaching her class when her mother passed away, but she needs to recognize that not every relative has that freedom in these situations. It's a beautiful, hardcover book that I'll be passing along.

  • Sherrey
    2019-01-15 16:02

    I received a copy of The Geography of Memory from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for a fair and honest review. The opinions expressed here are solely my own.The Geography of Memory: A Pilgrimage through Alzheimer's has been in my to be read stack for far too long. Personal family matters perhaps caused me to keep shoving it to the lower depths of the book pile. For some reason, a few days ago I decided it was time to dig in and read this memoir by Jeanne Murray Walker.Despite the heaviness of the subject -- dementia and Alzheimer's -- Walker has woven family experiences, stories and the deterioration of her mother's memory with a thread of humor and wit that is not disparaging to anyone in her memoir and which lightens many moments for her readers. These diseases are difficult ones to read about, but here the author has used the differing opinions of two generations on current issues to recreate memories that have long since slipped away.To say I loved this book is easy despite having just lost a family member to a vicious and rarely heard of form of dementia. Jeanne Murray Walker has taken the gradual slipping away of her mother and created a dance between the two women and Walker's sister that transforms the role of caregiver into something almost magical. She reminds us that we're all going to travel this road, if not specifically, tangentially. Each of us will lose something with the passing years and waging a battle against whatever that loss is, we will become defiant, at times irrational, and most of all, angry.Walker has mastered her story so well that her reader is swept up into the action, characters, and momentum immediately. I had a constant battle with putting this book down to get something else done.Kudos to Jeanne Murray Walker on a stellar depiction of life in the changing roles of generations in order for the usually cared for child to become the one caring for a parent and vice versa.

  • Catherine Gillespie
    2019-01-16 19:57

    Walker’s method of using her mother’s fading memories to examine how her own recollections shaped and impacted her understanding of herself, her parents, and her role in the family is well conceived and well done. If you take the book more as a memoir and an examination of memory, and less as a book about what Alzheimer’s is like, it comes across better. However, I still have some trouble recommending it, because I didn’t honestly like the book very much.During her mother’s illness, Walker lived in Philadelphia while her younger sister lived in Dallas, where their mother lived. Walker sees herself as a caretaker, remarking again and again how she has flown halfway across the country, five or six times a year, and washed her mother’s laundry or packed up boxes. Meanwhile, her sister, who also has a full-time job and family responsibilities, is passed over although her caretaking duties as the local child must have been immeasurably more involved and more burdensome.I often felt annoyed on behalf of the younger sister, and even on behalf of their mother, who was subjected to Walker’s tendency to swoop in like she knows what’s best when she’s actually quite out of the loop. However, while I didn’t find Walker to be a very likeable narrator, this is her memoir, and she is certainly entitled to write about her experiences dealing with a parent’s aging even from a distance.{Read my full review here}

  • Gina
    2019-01-08 22:47

    So much of the time when we read about heart breaking diseases such as Alzheimers, we hardly see the silver lining. In Jeanne Murray Walker's "The Geography of Memory," the road is long but not without sunshine. Told in simple yet articulate prose, Walker recounts her mother's journey through the illness--her struggles, her successes, and her new understanding of disease and the human spirit. With segments of "Field Notes," the author weaves the narrative with "scientific" observations of what her mother-=and she--is going through, piecing together parts to make a patchworked whole. Never precious but rightfully sentimental at times, we see that although Alzheimer's is not pretty, it isn't abysmal either. This book is an excellent lesson in finding good among the bad, new lessons within the fight, and the overpowering will of love and humanity in the midst of illness.For anyone who has cared for a loved one with Alzheimer's, or not, this book will not only touch you deeply but also show that even the hardest of situations can have meaningful and beautiful outcomes.

  • Cara
    2018-12-25 22:01

    This is a masterfully written book. Not only is the language beautiful, but the subject matter is so tenderly handled. This is a stunning memoir. I recommend it for anyone who lives in a body in the world. #MFA

  • Frederick
    2019-01-11 16:11

    For anyone who grew up in a subculture in which one’s beloved parents held core beliefs that were at odds with, and perhaps considered superior to, those of the dominant culture – an inwardly circumscribed society in which your child-self implicitly shared this world-and-life view until you shook or slipped off its beliefs in your teens or beyond (or adopted a different tradition’s perspective on the same founding stories) – then you may find your own memories redemptively jogged by this story of a late-middle-age English professor who completes the circle with a beloved, once confining mother who now requires active daughtering as her cognition and independence falter.Jeanne Murray Walker grew up (like me) in the evangelical sub-culture of the American heartland. Our intellectual and spiritual migrations from the religious tradition of our youth began at the evangelical college we both attended: Wheaton College in Illinois, Billy Graham’s alma mater. (Full disclosure: as members of the class of 1966, she and I began a friendship which still continues; coincidentally, we are both ritual-loving Episcopalians.)Among her choices for college, Jeanne felt Wheaton would offer the richest intellectual environment. Her mother – mourning a son who had died suddenly at the end of his first week at college – followed her to Wheaton so Jeanne could live at home. Despite this constraint, Jeanne was always kind and courteous toward Mother – who was not a smotherer, and warmly welcomed the young college student’s friends into their home. Marrying after college, the author pursued her love of literature through graduate education, into teaching, writing and publishing, and mothering (which yielded many wonderful metaphors for her poetry). Mother also remarried (with her children’s blessings) and moved to Dallas; Jeanne ended up in the Philadelphia suburbs, becoming a full professor of English at the University of Delaware.When her twice-widowed mother began to show evidence of dementia in her eighties, the author increased her flights from Philadelphia so that her younger sister – who lived in Dallas – would not have to carry the burden alone. As her memory diminished, Mother spoke increasingly in phrases from the distant past. (Asked if she was hungry, she might reply, “Let’s shoot the raccoon!” – the residue of an old story about Jeanne’s farmer-grandmother’s keen-eyed, decisive protection of precious egg-producing chickens.) Knowing their lived context, her poet-daughter recognized these expressions as metaphorical communication. Jeanne actively interpreted the metaphors, allowing them to penetrate, reawaken and expand her own memory. And in contemplating Mother’s allusive links to the formative child-land of family and community – now vividly reappearing – she began to repair and close the distance she had created from her own past and from a mother whose charming idiosyncrasies, gregarious humor, and flare with flower-arranging and wardrobe choices (and scrupulous penny-pinching and mother-hen concern for her children after their father’s untimely death) she came to fully appreciate. Jeanne’s preface sums it up succinctly:“Ironically as she lost her memory, I gained mine. During the hours…I spent with her, scenes from earlier years that I had entirely forgotten leapt back so forcefully that they almost seemed to be happening in the present. I began to comprehend my history in a fresh way. I saw how I had defined myself against Mother, how hard I had to fight to get away from her, and what it had cost us both. This unexpected recovery of my own memories that came during Mother’s Alzheimer’s calamity became of the most spectacular gifts of my life.”You don’t have to have grown up in, or out of, an evangelical childhood to appreciate this book. Children in every family – whether reared in a closeted sub-culture or not, leaving it or not – must differentiate from their parents to become fully realized as individuals in a modern, free society; for some, this can be a painful and sometimes permanently distancing process. Jeanne Murray Walker’s beautifully crafted memoir encourages us aging children to revisit our surviving parents – compos mentis or not – and re-engage with them on the last stage of their journey. An unexpected byproduct may be to recover warp-and-woof memories that help finally to cohere an incomplete life narrative and heal the wounds dividing lived past from living present.

  • Nancy
    2018-12-25 21:07

    I really loved this book--I'm sure partly because I have known Jeanne for many years. But what I realized as I read is how much of Jeanne's life I have never known about, which was fascinating to hear about. My own mother died this past fall, at age 91, fairly unexpectedly but also at a point where we all feel she was pretty ready to go, so I think that colored my reading too. But more than anything, whether I had known Jeanne or not, whether my mother had died or not, I would have loved this book--because Jeanne is a poet, which means that she is always, always processing her experience and her feelings, and then mining more insight out of it than the rest of us and finding the way to express that insight. There are lots of examples of this: --When she first learns of her mother's death and is thinking about the funeral, and her mother's body: "The body that held me before I came into the world, the body that held her." How rich, how moving. --When her family is waiting to see how her mom does after hip surgery, and she thinks: "we don't have much practice waiting. It's easier for us to act. When we act, it feels like we're in charge." --On a terrible experience when both her kids were in danger: "I learned something. I'd thought that no one but me could save the people I loved, but that isn't true." --The idea that we "daughter" our mothers the way we saw them "daughter" theirs (the way we "mother" our children the way our mothers "mothered" us). yes!--"I am the servant of objects," re managing and maintaining all of our "stuff."--"what I had heard all my life described as the liberal, intellectual, highbrow East Coast...had been calling to me for years like a whistle that was pitched so high no one else in my family could hear it." Yes!She also makes a convincing case for her central argument: that the conversation of demented people is full of metaphors taken from their lives and that if you know them and know the stories of their lives, you can make sense our of much more of their conversation.

  • Cheryl D
    2018-12-29 15:58

    Disclosure: I received this book through the giveaway on Goodreads.The story of a woman who re-discovers pieces of her life while her mother slowly loses hers.This book is difficult to review because I feel conflicted about it. If the truth be known I would probably give it a 3.5 if Goodreads had that type of rating system. I feel conflicted because the author is such a talented writer. She is a fine crafter of sentences, feelings, mood, place and the intricacies of human relationships. She knows how to get to the point and make it beautifully. For instance on page 133 the author writes "I am just beginning to get a reputation in the family as the Child Who Reads. None of the drawbacks of that role have manifested themselves yet." Great truths held within great writing. Yet, at the same time this was not a story that I was in a frenzy to took me almost a week to finish it when I usually read a book within 24 hours. I think the reason it took me so long was that I honestly felt at times I was reading the same story/thoughts that had been expressed earlier in the book. It often felt as if the same message was being repeated over and over again and as such it felt a little slow and boring.All in all a good book which will make you dig a little deeper into your own life and make you pray that no one you know has to suffer with Alzheimers.

  • Anna
    2019-01-04 15:49

    I received a free copy of this book from Center Street (the publisher) as a Goodreads giveaway.The Geography of Memory is less about the author's mother's experience with Alzheimer's and more about Walker's complex relationship with her mother throughout her life, focused through the lens of the dementia "pilgrimage." The narrative is also centered around Walker's relationship with her sister, who shares in the responsibility of taking care of their mother. This made me reflect a great deal on my own mother's and aunt's experience of joint-caretaking of my grandmother during her years with Alzheimer's. (Interestingly, it also made me wonder what it might be like for me and my sister to take care of our mother in similar circumstances, or what my daughters might someday have to face should I follow the same path. It wasn't exactly fun stuff to think about!)More than anything, I loved Walker's poetic descriptions. I haven't yet read any of Jeanne Murray Walker's poetry, but after reading The Geography of Memory I am looking forward to reading some of her poetic work.I really wanted to give this four stars, but I struggled to get through some of the middle chapters and I felt that it could have been condensed a bit.

  • Lanita
    2018-12-27 21:57

    This book resonated with me because the author's relationship with her mother was so similar to my own. Unlike hers, my mother's mind stayed sharp to the last minute: her body wore out before her mind did. What a blessing that is!And yet, through Ms. Walker's eyes, I can see the way her conversations with her mother prompted memories of her own. We both traveled back and forth to help with our mothers, but her telling of the process was much more than a series of journal entries.Her language choice is beautiful. She is also a poet, which shows in her cadence and word choice. I regret devouring the book so quickly that I didn't take time to note specific parts. The flow from practical to poetic is seamless. Perhaps only someone who writes and yet not as well would notice.This book may not be for everyone. But it is for women who have struggled with their mothers for most of their lives and for anyone whose parent has dementia. It will give not only a geography of memory but also a clearer map of their own lives.

  • Azizi
    2019-01-02 20:46

    When I first received this book as a First Reads Giveaway, I fully expected to read a tragic memoir about the terrors of Alzheimer's. However, this book wasn't that kind of book at all. Instead, it really is a book about memories- the author and her mother's memories. Walker seamlessly weaves together her journey into memories and her mother's loss of memories so effectively that it is often difficult to tell where Walker's story begins and where her mother's story ends. But I think that is the point. Walker's journey is about separating from her mother and coming to grips with all of the things that make them different. I loved reading about their arguments, differences of opinion about religion, etc. By the end of the book I fell in love with Walker's mother and her entire family. Her ability to write with such candid vulnerability makes it impossible to feel otherwise. This is a touching and memorable book; I am happy to have read it.

  • Harry Brake
    2019-01-14 18:52

    This account of the move through Alzheimer's is smooth, easy to follow, and easy to get involved with. So much so I found myself also helpless to see any hope outside of falling into the trap of being able to see a solution. Yet I realize the goal of Jeanne Murray Walker's text is to show the journey, how the journey was travelled, and how she came to terms with the terrible situation that impacts so many. Being able to relate to her immediate situation, working through the frustrations, the coping mechanisms, as well as the different angles in understanding Alzheimer's is well done through her writing. I feel this nonfiction account is well done, but have the need now to move onto something more positive as soon as possible. Yet, that is the depth, art, and talent jeanne Murray Walker has in this writing of her experience.

  • Cindy Pomerleau
    2018-12-28 15:07

    I love everything about this book. First of all, it's refreshing antidote to the "all is lost" view of Alzheimer's. It's more as though the layers are gradually peeled away as her mother spirals into dementia, and the author repeatedly finds new ways of relating to her mother where she is, not where she used to be. Secondly, the author learns much about herself as well as about her mother during that journey, making it a moving coming of age story as she connects and reconnects with her mother. The author is a teacher, poet, and playwright, so not surprisingly the book is beautifully written. As the daughter of a man who died of Alzheimer's and as someone who is terrified on her own behalf, I found hope in this book where little exists elsewhere, other than in desperate searches for cures and palliatives.

  • Martina
    2019-01-02 16:50

    I won this book in a good-reads contest.Honestly, the reason why I entered the contest and want to read this book was because I had dealt with something like this with my great-grandmother and my bf grandmother and it wasn't easy to each time. I remember shaking my grandmother telling her that her mom still loves her and always going to be here even when she has Alzheimer's. I remember the tears and the heartache watching that person going through and everyone around them. So when I won this book, I began to read on how other people treated this or how well they cope to help me.I love the book. Everything was sad, teary and wonderful.I would recommend this story to anyone who's having a hard time dealing with a person who has Alzheimers.

  • Sandra Vander Schaaf
    2019-01-01 14:52

    The hours I spent with "The Geography of Memory" were like hours spent with a good friend. Jeanne Murray Walker's voice is tender, gentle, and has a clarity I love. The story of her experience caring for her mother through all the stages of Alzheimer's—with particular attentiveness to the myriad ways it challenged and changed family relationships—is thoughtfully and humbly told. It is not only a tribute to the complexities and richness of the mother-daughter relationship, but an inspired call to cherish the gift of memory and acknowledge that there are great depths to be plumbed when we give up the the notion that past and present are linear opposites. I highly recommend this book.

  • Adele
    2019-01-01 23:04

    The Geography of Memory is more than a book to be read only by those with a direct experience of, or particular interest in, dementia. It can be read by all those looking for honest, tender and luminously written evidence that, as Walker says, “in spite of suffering, our universe is ordered by a force that’s not chance, not brutality, not evil, but goodness.” Read my full review here:

  • Elizabeth
    2018-12-18 19:53

    I'm glad I picked up that book in Colorado in a garage sale. it has not been read and send very interesting. could I clean something about memory loss? well I really enjoyed this narrative about the authors mother progress in her dementia. it's poignant and I lived the question: what is self? is it the ability to remember? I loved the candor of the author and her psychological analyses. good book overall

  • Sara
    2019-01-05 16:07

    This was from a Goodreads was a charming book, I really enjoyed it. I know a lot of people suffer with Alzheimer's and their family suffers right along with them. This helps give a little insight when you think they may just be confused and babbling, they may actually be pulling from their past and not just randomly blabbing. My mother in law started reading it and she was interested so I let her borrow it now!

  • Venohe
    2018-12-19 17:09

    I really liked reading this book. Although I had expected more about the actual journey of an Alzheimer's patient, I wasn't disappointed at all! The book is well written and makes clear that Alzheimer's affects the whole family - not just in the present but also in the past. This disease is able to make one reconsider not just the life of the affected relative but also one's own life in a very deep and stirring way.

  • Paul
    2018-12-31 14:50

    As a slow pilgrim I journeyed in joy and sorrow through Jeanne Murray Walker's The Geography of Memory: A Pilgrimage Through Alzheimer's and kept running across Eudora Welty's able and apt bookmarked quote: "The events of our lives happen in a sequence in time, but in their significance to ourselves they find their own order: the continuous thread of revelation" (bookmark courtesy of Eighth Day Books). Walker's story is a page-turner. A magnanimous and magnificent memoir on loss and love.

  • Anne Wright
    2018-12-19 16:57

    I heard my friend Jeanne's reading of her new book just before Christmas and bought copies for all of my siblings as we face what may be a similar journey. My favorite vignette was at Jack's performance as first chair concertmaster at Kinhaven and what happens from the 2nd row seats. To go from heartbreaking to belly laughs in a matter of sentences was but one example of Jeanne's brilliance as a storyteller. Thank you for this gift to our family.

  • Connie Corey
    2019-01-01 18:43

    I thought this book was going to be more about the actual progression of Alzheimer's but instead is a memoir by a daughter about what she learned through taking care of her mother during the mom's descent into Alzheimer's. Loved the bare truth told by the author about her early life with her mom. The author's supposition is that the author resurrected many childhood memories via her mom's chaotic loss of her own memories.I would recommend this.

  • Townsville Library
    2018-12-27 17:07

    Find Dementia Awarness books in TownsvilleA pilgrimage through Alzheimer's.

  • May
    2018-12-17 19:13

    Purchased this because I wanted to learn about Alzheimer's, but could only take so much from it through this book.. Like what the previous reviewer had mentioned... It did feel like more of a memoir about the author herself, not so much about her mothers Alzheimer's. I did like the cover though..

  • Joni Mitchell
    2019-01-12 22:51

    By far one of the best books I have ever read. The honesty alone was enough to make me not want to put the book down. This is a real account of what it is like to go through a loved one dealing with Alzheimer's.

  • Shena
    2019-01-06 20:12

    An interesting book. I think I expected more experiences that actually talked about the mother and less about what the author was thinking. The most important thing was this book gave insight to what millions are dealing with on a daily basis.

  • Joe
    2018-12-20 15:05

    Walker recovers memories of her childhood and mother as her elderly mother's own memory begins to slip away. A candid yet hopeful and ocasionally funny account of dealing with a parent with Alzheimer's.

  • Sue
    2019-01-15 16:08

    I won this book through Goodread's Firstreads. It was wonderful. I just went through a similar pilgrimage a few years ago with my mom, and I wish that I had the book back then. It really showed that we are not alone in our journeys. I couldn't put the book down until I was finished with it.