Wednesday, August 19, 2015

My Review of "The Theft of Memory"

Jonathan Kozol's The Theft of Memory:  Losing My Father One Day at a Time is a poignant story of loss, told from the perspective of a son.  It highlights the descent into murkiness that is Alzheimer's, described by a man who watches his father slowly slip away from him.  But it also describes those tiny moments of joy -- the smallest gifts that an Alzheimer's patient can give to a loved one -- that demonstrate they're not completely gone, all-at-once.

Kozol's father, Harry, a respected neurologist and psychiatrist, knew sooner than anyone else what was happening to his brain, and the implications.  And he told no one else, except his son.

As the old man grew increasingly unpredictable and disoriented, and it became clear his elderly wife was incapable of caring for him, the decision was made to place him in a facility.  He emerged often enough from his misty passivity to ask to go home that his son concluded -- years later, after the couple's retirement funds were depleted -- that he must acquiesce, and hired helpers so it could happen.

With his father's permission, Jonathan Kozol spent hours pouring over his father's old files -- taking notes about details from his father's famous patients.  Pieces of his father's history began to slide into place; some took on new meaning.

This literary approach, though interesting, isn't seamlessly constructed.  The first half of The Theft of Memory deals primarily with the pain, struggles and accommodations made in the months and years after Alzheimer's exacted its pernicious toll.  And in the latter half, we only have hints about the nature of Harry's life and work.  The lack of specifics leaves me with this sense that Harry is "Everyman".

But he isn't.  He was one man.  A unique man, whose unique relationship to his son isn't as clearly reflected in the warmth and connection that one expects out of memoirs of this sort.

There are moments, mind you, when the reader is left with poetic descriptions of what that relationship was -- moments like this:  "in his long and brave and dignified resistance to the darkness that progressively encircled him, there was, for me, no diminution -- not in the essence of the person he had been, not in the admiration that I felt for him.  This is why it was so hard to let him go".

But those are few and far between for a book like The Theft of Memory.

I enjoyed this little book.  But I hardly think I'll come to again.

I received a free copy of this book as part of the Blogging for Books program in exchange for my honest review here.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

My Review of "Crash the Chatterbox"

Steven Furtick's Crash the Chatterbox:  Hearing God's Voice above All Others helps Christians navigate all the different voices that come at us on a daily basis to determine which ones are truth (God's voice), and which ones are based on lies and half truths that bring only discouragement and disappointment.  The "chatterbox" covers all those "lies we believe that keep us from accurately and actively hearing God's voice" (page 8).

Crash the Chatterbox covers four particular areas:  "God Says I Am", "God Says He Will", "God Says He Has", and "God Says I Can".  Every day, we Christians need to decide what dialogue we are going to listen to, ruminate on, and respond to in each of these areas.  The dialogue we choose to invest ourselves in will shape how we experience life and our relationship with God.  I was challenged immediately from the very beginning of the book -- when Furtick asked a few reflection questions concerning the voices we listen to and the impact it has not only on ourselves, but the very plans God has for us.

Furtick has given us a challenging and accessible reminder of Whose and who we are as followers of Jesus Christ.  Crash the Chatterbox is a reminder of just how many voices are willing to tell us both of those -- and of how the truth is only to be found in listening to God.

I received a free copy of this book as part of the Blogging for Books program in exchange for my honest review here.