The Memory Wall by Lev A.C. Rosen
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
It was probably about two-thirds through this book that I broke down sobbing on the couch.
My mother has Alzheimer's. I was very close with her, my family moved back home (at great expense both personal and emotional) to help take care of her, and, as I write this, she has been in a nursing home for well over two years after having been given less than half of that to live.
The Memory Wall is about a kid, Nick, having to deal with a similar situation. He's very young and his mother also has Alzheimer's. The family makes a decision that she, too, will go to a nursing home, and the kid doesn't really understand everything that's going on with the medical situation in play. He does, however, know a certain fantasy MMO that he plays quite a bit, and he's convinced his mother is playing it with him from the nursing home.
It's really a heartbreaking story. I can forgive some of the realism aspects of this in what's a challenging story to tell for this age group because it absolutely digs into the emotional struggle that comes with Alzheimer's caregiving. In particular, Nick's denial of what is actually happening and his ways to try and mentally craft how the doctors have it wrong and how his mother will actually come through or recover or however you want to phrase it is extremely realistic (to this day, even though my mother hasn't recognized me for five years and I rarely see her because it hurts so much, I keep thinking, in the back of my mind, that we'll get some phone call that will never come that tells us that she snapped out of it), and the use of a video game construct to literally play out these scenarios us caregivers who struggle to let go is a bit of a genius move.
I could nitpick on a lot of things here and there, but that's not the point. This book succeeds on its emotional core and the harsh realism of accepting the fate of a loved one you can't do anything for. The added helplessness of being a child in this situation is not one I can relate to directly, but will resonate for a lot of readers who might have grandparents in this or similar scenarios. It's closer to a 4.5 because of a lot of the nitpicks, but why bother when this is a book that anyone who has a situation even close to this should read.
Honestly, it's just a beautiful, gorgeous account of a very real struggle. I sobbed because it was perhaps too real for me, but those who can be a little more objective might appreciate it for what it does, if not what it represents. Just an amazing read.
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