Reviewed by Kelly Allen
Claire is teacher, a mother of two and she is married to a very attractive younger man called Greg. Greg and Claire met when he was the builder converting her loft into a writing room. Claire appears to be a happy, glamorous and all-round solid person, however, she has been diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s disease.
Claire’s father also had Alzheimer’s disease – or AD as the family call – and it was 50/50 as to whether Claire would be affected. Over a short period of time, Claire has to give up her job, and her family have to pull together to take care of her whilst also allowing her to be as free as possible.
During this time, Claire’s eldest daughter, Caitlin, discovers that her biological father did not know of her existence. This happens while Caitlin is trying to come to terms with her own life; she has failed her exams at university and she is pregnant.
Whilst Claire wrestles with her disease, she finds the strength to help her daughter, bond with her own mother and unearth an ally in her youngest daughter, Esther. Together, they hatch adventures to the park and attempt to bake without supervision.
Meanwhile, Claire’s relationship with Greg is more and more fraught, and it seems nothing will remind her of the true love they once shared. He is the one who starts ‘The Memory Book’, a place where all members of the family can put items and write messages about the past on the beautiful pages of the red book. It's a place where even Claire can focus more and write what she truly feels.
Over a short time, Claire and her family learn to live in the here and now, and to appreciate the fleeting moments when Claire comes back to them…
I am utterly in love with this book. I simply could not put it down and had read it within two days, crying and laughing all the way through. The subject of Alzheimer’s is handled so delicately and so beautifully, yet also honestly, that I felt I understood the disease more fully after reading.
I absolutely loved the Claire's character, with her quirky ways (with or without the AD), and I loved how she made people feel. Everyone in the book loved being around her and when she came back to reality, the sheer relief and desperation to hold onto that moment from each character was simply beautiful.
The relationship with Claire and both daughters was also gorgeously delivered and I particularly liked how Esther behaved with her mother. It was almost as if they were in cahoots and the AD was a game. This really worked and it felt realistic for a child to see the disease in that way. Her older daughter was the opposite, wanting to take care and manage her mother, to help and support the family. Both relationships were written with warmth and love between the characters and this made the story all the more real.
Greg was also a strong character. I really felt pained for his loss each time Claire struggled with his tender touch or felt uncomfortable as he watched her from afar. However, he was incredibly patient and I loved that he gave so much even though he was losing everything.
This book is beyond emotional, yet it has a strong message throughout – live life and live it now; you never know when it may be over.
This is a must read for 2014!