Since the book was very personal, cross-posting the review from here:
To be honest, I was looking for a tale of a descent into Alzheimer’s – the loss of memory, the loss of identity, the gory days of dis-inhibition – and a family coming together with that tragedy. I was expecting a version of Em and The Big Hoom, but for Alzheimer’s.
Major prolonged illness in the family can have two outcomes – it either brings everyone, even those drifting away, closer, or it just leads to an under-the surface fragile family disintegrating. While EATBH reinforced how the family sticks together, here you see the more Western and practical outlook, and the relatively looser bonds that bind people, disintegrating.
When the narrator starts spending his weekends at his parents’ helping his parents as his Mother starts her descent into dementia, his wife complains about his absence every weekend. “I need to be there for my family” he says. “We’re your family, you fool” she answers. But I wonder what would have happened in EATBH if Jerry or his sister had been married (He stayed single). How do you reconcile the needs of your parents to that of your wife and children at such times? How do you choose? Should you have to?
‘She sits in the movie theatre of her own mind and she doesn’t know what these images are or what her relation to them is supposed to be.’
In a way, it’s like showing a distant relative to a child and asking ‘do you know who this is?’. The child has to name a person, and does that with detachment. It is a question of a database query to match a face to a name. There are no memories being invoked for the child to feel anything towards that person.
As he argues in the end, what happens when you lose your self or ‘move out’ of your self? Is this what would happen? You look at yourself, your memories from outside with no sense of any relation to them. And in a way, ‘you’ are now ‘selfless’. There is no question of who ‘you’ are, and you aren’t even in a state to ask the question. You go to the state of infant-hood, just experiencing and not reflecting or remembering.
Has it been more than 10 years already? Those days that we struggled through. Those calls from relatives asking me to act(not exactly ‘positive’). The cook arranged, the attendant, a brother struggling to land a secure job. I, struggling to save up for the MBA I eventually ended up not doing. Those days when Father stood strong and did what was expected of him, without expecting what was expected of others. It lasted mostly 4-5 months before Ammammai passed away, but when you’re going through some experiences, time stretches itself.
They say life is stranger than fiction. You come across characters like the narrator or ‘the Big Hoom’ who stand by those who need them, doing what is needed, choosing the least glamorous path. And you want to be like them, to be that strong. It is always easier to decide the ‘right’ course of action, eschewing the easier choices. Only when you are faced with circumstances, you realize how strong you can be or how weak you actually are.
Oh well, such is life. One thing though, there is something called Time. And it heals; but the scars will remain. Maybe they should, reminding us of our choices and the paths/detours we took to become what we are now.