Monday, January 22, 2018

And Every Morning the Way Home Gets Longer and Longer (A Novella) - Fredrik Backman

Summary:  Grandpa and Noah are sitting on a bench in a square that keeps getting smaller every day. The square is strange but also familiar, full of the sweet scent of the hyacinths that grandma loved to grow in her garden.  As they wait together, they tell jokes and discuss their shared love of mathematics. Grandpa recalls what it was like to fall in love with his wife. She's as real to him now as the first day he met her, but he dreads the day when he won't remember her.    This peculiar space that is growing dimmer and more confusing all the time is where they will learn to say good-bye, the scent of hyacinths in the air, nothing to hear.  Fredrik Backman has rendered an exquisitely moving portrait of an elderly man's struggle to hold onto his most precious memories and his family's efforts to care for him even as they must find a way to let go.  This little book with a big message is sure to be treasured for generations to come.  (Summary from book flap)

My Review:  I'd like to start my review with an excerpt from the author's letter to the reader, that I think makes this novella a little easier to understand:

"This is a story about memories and about letting go.  It's a love letter and a slow farewell between a man and his grandson, and between a dad and his boy. 

I never meant for you to read it, to be quite honest.  I wrote it just because I was trying to sort out my own thoughts...but it turned into a small tale of how I'm slowly losing the greatest minds I know, about missing someone who is still there..."

This novella is a 76-page story about the passage of time, fighting the loss of memories, and caring for someone who is slowly losing track of the world and their place in it.  It's primarily composed of conversations between an elderly man (Grandpa) and his wife, son (Ted), and grandson (Noah).  The conversations didn't always transition in an obvious way or take place chronologically or even in the real world, so I would occasionally lose my bearings while reading.  The resulting disorientation and frustration felt intentional -- a narrative technique on the part of the author, that helped me to identifywith the characters and their emotions.  However, the more I read the more the story started to fall into place, the characters came into focus, and moments made sense.  At the end I was left with a bittersweet sense of loss -- like a life well lived, but only half remembered.

Honestly, I don't know if I recommend this book or not.  It definitely elicited all sorts of feels, but it might be kind of a hard read for someone who has ever cared for a loved one with Alzheimer's or Dementia.  It also might be cathartic.  Whatever it is -- it's 76 pages of food for thought:  What do you want to hold on to?

My Rating: 3.5 Stars

For the sensitive reader: Might be a trigger for those who have cared for a loved one with progressive or chronic memory loss.

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