The Geography of Memory

The Geography of Memory Award Winning Poet Jeanne Murray Walker Tells An Extraordinarily Wise, Witty, And Quietly Wrenching Tale Of Her Mother S Long Passage Into Dementia This Powerful Story Explores Parental Love, Profound Grief, And The Unexpected Consolation Of Memory While Walker Does Not Flinch From The Horrors Of The Ugly Twins, Aging And Death, Her Eye For The Apt Image Provides A Window Into Unexpected Joy And Humor Even During The Darkest Days This Is A Multi Layered Narrative Of Generations, Faith, And Friendship As Walker Leans In To The Task Of Caring For Her Mother, Their Relationship Unexpectedly Deepens And Becomes Life Giving Her Mother S Memory, Which And Dwells In The Distant Past, Illuminates Walker S Own Childhood She Rediscovers And Begins To Understand Her Own Past, As Well As To Enter Fully Into Her Mother S Final Years THE GEOGRAPHY OF MEMORY Is Not Only A Personal Journey Made Public In The Most Engaging, Funny, And Revealing Way Possible, Here Is A Story Of Redemption For Anyone Who Is Caring For Or Expecting To Care For Ill And Aging Parents And For All The Rest Of Us As Well

Jeanne Murray Walker s poems and essays have appeared in seven books as well as many periodicals, including Poetry, The Georgia Review, American Poetry Review, Image, The Atlantic Monthly, and Best American Poetry Among her awards are an NEA Fellowship, eight Pennsylvania Council on the Arts Fellowships, and a Pew Fellowship in The Arts She is Professor of English at The University of Delaware a

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  • Hardcover
  • 384 pages
  • The Geography of Memory
  • Jeanne Murray Walker
  • English
  • 15 July 2019
  • 9781455544981

10 thoughts on “The Geography of Memory

  1. says:

    Many have written about the slow ravages of Alzheimer s few have written about the disease with the degree of courage, honesty, intelligence, and heart that Jeanne Murray Walker has This book is a journey through so much than disease Murray Walker ravels and unravels the complicated skeins of childhood, both hers and her mother s, as she knits that strange and ever elusive knot we call memory.

  2. says:

    Where do I begin Perhaps the beginning Last April, I met Jeanne Murray Walker at an event where I work and pre ordered her book shortly after hearing about this book project Just the details excited me, and I wasn t disappointed Not at all.Jeanne Murray Walker s The Geography of Memory A Pilgrimage Through Alzheimer s ought to be required reading for anyone who has a parent or loved one sliding into dementia or Alzheimer s Walker approaches the subject with grace, love, and a human touch that is remarkable in its compassion While she, like others, goes through the expected periods of anger and frustration that plague those who struggle with this gargantuan care taking task, Walker is able to step back and examine the patterns that occur in her mother s communication She s able to apply a rare mix of reflection on her childhood and understanding she s gleaned from life, study, teaching, and even her religious backgrounds to pen a beautifully written memoir that fully honors her mother and family, especially her sister, Julie.This is a book I could hardly put down for any reason Walker is an award winning poet, and her eloquent use of words translates wonderfully to prose When she s feeling anger, it comes through loud and clear When she is tickled by something, the reader laughs with her Walker helps her readers feel every emotion she feels all the way through the book Why, I even wanted to get up and go to Peru with her, and I ve never wanted to go there in my life Still don t, but for those few moments, I did I really did.This is not a book for every audience, but it s surely a book for anyone who will ever deal with a soul who might experience the confusion of dementia It s also for anyone who might like to understand how a brain might be working if it isn t spitting out what seem to be the right words at the right time It s so lovely, so poignant, and yes, even gripping I highly recommend Jeanne Murray Walker s The Geography of Memory

  3. says:

    I really struggled with this book I was happy when I won it in a giveaway, but then I postponed reading it because my mother s own pilgrimage with Alzheimer s, and consequently my own experience, makes it a tender subject Finally, though, it rose to the top of my desired reads I found the book to be of Jeanne Murray Walker s memoir than a book about Alzheimer s I suppose that s fitting in many ways My own mother s loss of memory has increased my own replaying of memories Still, I expected from the title a bit about the disease What was most difficult for me was when the author spoke of her sister The author lives out of town and makes frequent trips to help care for her mother, while her sister lives in town I interpreted her statements about her sister as dismissive about the daily work involved when you live in the same town and every day of your life changes, making regular routines of any kind a challenge I don t want to judge the out of town adult child, but I also don t think a week here and there is to be honored above the adult child experiencing hours everyday Neither should be elevated The author seemed to share every amount of time she spent researching doctors or taxi services while sharing the hours her sister worked and could not be available It just felt like a strange game of keeping track From my perspective, there s no room to keep track It takes all you have all the time It takes a lot of grace When her in town sister fires a doctor, the out of town sister needs to listen instead of saying they agreed to make all the decisions together as if it s all black and white and there is time to do that You just can t be involved in every detail if you re not present That s not bad, just different and requires a realistic view I m glad the author could stay in Europe and finish teaching her class when her mother passed away, but she needs to recognize that not every relative has that freedom in these situations It s a beautiful, hardcover book that I ll be passing along.

  4. says:

    I received a copy of The Geography of Memory from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for a fair and honest review The opinions expressed here are solely my own.The Geography of Memory A Pilgrimage through Alzheimer s has been in my to be read stack for far too long Personal family matters perhaps caused me to keep shoving it to the lower depths of the book pile For some reason, a few days ago I decided it was time to dig in and read this memoir by Jeanne Murray Walker.Despite the heaviness of the subject dementia and Alzheimer s Walker has woven family experiences, stories and the deterioration of her mother s memory with a thread of humor and wit that is not disparaging to anyone in her memoir and which lightens many moments for her readers These diseases are difficult ones to read about, but here the author has used the differing opinions of two generations on current issues to recreate memories that have long since slipped away.To say I loved this book is easy despite having just lost a family member to a vicious and rarely heard of form of dementia Jeanne Murray Walker has taken the gradual slipping away of her mother and created a dance between the two women and Walker s sister that transforms the role of caregiver into something almost magical She reminds us that we re all going to travel this road, if not specifically, tangentially Each of us will lose something with the passing years and waging a battle against whatever that loss is, we will become defiant, at times irrational, and most of all, angry.Walker has mastered her story so well that her reader is swept up into the action, characters, and momentum immediately I had a constant battle with putting this book down to get something else done.Kudos to Jeanne Murray Walker on a stellar depiction of life in the changing roles of generations in order for the usually cared for child to become the one caring for a parent and vice versa.

  5. says:

    Walker s method of using her mother s fading memories to examine how her own recollections shaped and impacted her understanding of herself, her parents, and her role in the family is well conceived and well done If you take the book as a memoir and an examination of memory, and less as a book about what Alzheimer s is like, it comes across better However, I still have some trouble recommending it, because I didn t honestly like the book very much.During her mother s illness, Walker lived in Philadelphia while her younger sister lived in Dallas, where their mother lived Walker sees herself as a caretaker, remarking again and again how she has flown halfway across the country, five or six times a year, and washed her mother s laundry or packed up boxes Meanwhile, her sister, who also has a full time job and family responsibilities, is passed over although her caretaking duties as the local child must have been immeasurably involved and burdensome.I often felt annoyed on behalf of the younger sister, and even on behalf of their mother, who was subjected to Walker s tendency to swoop in like she knows what s best when she s actually quite out of the loop However, while I didn t find Walker to be a very likeable narrator, this is her memoir, and she is certainly entitled to write about her experiences dealing with a parent s aging even from a distance Read my full review here

  6. says:

    So much of the time when we read about heart breaking diseases such as Alzheimers, we hardly see the silver lining In Jeanne Murray Walker s The Geography of Memory, the road is long but not without sunshine Told in simple yet articulate prose, Walker recounts her mother s journey through the illness her struggles, her successes, and her new understanding of disease and the human spirit With segments of Field Notes, the author weaves the narrative with scientific observations of what her mother and she is going through, piecing together parts to make a patchworked whole Never precious but rightfully sentimental at times, we see that although Alzheimer s is not pretty, it isn t abysmal either This book is an excellent lesson in finding good among the bad, new lessons within the fight, and the overpowering will of love and humanity in the midst of illness.For anyone who has cared for a loved one with Alzheimer s, or not, this book will not only touch you deeply but also show that even the hardest of situations can have meaningful and beautiful outcomes.

  7. says:

    This is a masterfully written book Not only is the language beautiful, but the subject matter is so tenderly handled This is a stunning memoir I recommend it for anyone who lives in a body in the world MFA

  8. says:

    For anyone who grew up in a subculture in which one s beloved parents held core beliefs that were at odds with, and perhaps considered superior to, those of the dominant culture an inwardly circumscribed society in which your child self implicitly shared this world and life view until you shook or slipped off its beliefs in your teens or beyond or adopted a different tradition s perspective on the same founding stories then you may find your own memories redemptively jogged by this story of a late middle age English professor who completes the circle with a beloved, once confining mother who now requires active daughtering as her cognition and independence falter.Jeanne Murray Walker grew up like me in the evangelical sub culture of the American heartland Our intellectual and spiritual migrations from the religious tradition of our youth began at the evangelical college we both attended Wheaton College in Illinois, Billy Graham s alma mater Full disclosure as members of the class of 1966, she and I began a friendship which still continues coincidentally, we are both ritual loving Episcopalians Among her choices for college, Jeanne felt Wheaton would offer the richest intellectual environment Her mother mourning a son who had died suddenly at the end of his first week at college followed her to Wheaton so Jeanne could live at home Despite this constraint, Jeanne was always kind and courteous toward Mother who was not a smotherer, and warmly welcomed the young college student s friends into their home Marrying after college, the author pursued her love of literature through graduate education, into teaching, writing and publishing, and mothering which yielded many wonderful metaphors for her poetry Mother also remarried with her children s blessings and moved to Dallas Jeanne ended up in the Philadelphia suburbs, becoming a full professor of English at the University of Delaware.When her twice widowed mother began to show evidence of dementia in her eighties, the author increased her flights from Philadelphia so that her younger sister who lived in Dallas would not have to carry the burden alone As her memory diminished, Mother spoke increasingly in phrases from the distant past Asked if she was hungry, she might reply, Let s shoot the raccoon the residue of an old story about Jeanne s farmer grandmother s keen eyed, decisive protection of precious egg producing chickens Knowing their lived context, her poet daughter recognized these expressions as metaphorical communication Jeanne actively interpreted the metaphors, allowing them to penetrate, reawaken and expand her own memory And in contemplating Mother s allusive links to the formative child land of family and community now vividly reappearing she began to repair and close the distance she had created from her own past and from a mother whose charming idiosyncrasies, gregarious humor, and flare with flower arranging and wardrobe choices and scrupulous penny pinching and mother hen concern for her children after their father s untimely death she came to fully appreciate Jeanne s preface sums it up succinctly Ironically as she lost her memory, I gained mine During the hours I spent with her, scenes from earlier years that I had entirely forgotten leapt back so forcefully that they almost seemed to be happening in the present I began to comprehend my history in a fresh way I saw how I had defined myself against Mother, how hard I had to fight to get away from her, and what it had cost us both This unexpected recovery of my own memories that came during Mother s Alzheimer s calamity became of the most spectacular gifts of my life You don t have to have grown up in, or out of, an evangelical childhood to appreciate this book Children in every family whether reared in a closeted sub culture or not, leaving it or not must differentiate from their parents to become fully realized as individuals in a modern, free society for some, this can be a painful and sometimes permanently distancing process Jeanne Murray Walker s beautifully crafted memoir encourages us aging children to revisit our surviving parents compos mentis or not and re engage with them on the last stage of their journey An unexpected byproduct may be to recover warp and woof memories that help finally to cohere an incomplete life narrative and heal the wounds dividing lived past from living present.

  9. says:

    I really loved this book I m sure partly because I have known Jeanne for many years But what I realized as I read is how much of Jeanne s life I have never known about, which was fascinating to hear about My own mother died this past fall, at age 91, fairly unexpectedly but also at a point where we all feel she was pretty ready to go, so I think that colored my reading too But than anything, whether I had known Jeanne or not, whether my mother had died or not, I would have loved this book because Jeanne is a poet, which means that she is always, always processing her experience and her feelings, and then mining insight out of it than the rest of us and finding the way to express that insight There are lots of examples of this When she first learns of her mother s death and is thinking about the funeral, and her mother s body The body that held me before I came into the world, the body that held her How rich, how moving When her family is waiting to see how her mom does after hip surgery, and she thinks we don t have much practice waiting It s easier for us to act When we act, it feels like we re in charge On a terrible experience when both her kids were in danger I learned something I d thought that no one but me could save the people I loved, but that isn t true The idea that we daughter our mothers the way we saw them daughter theirs the way we mother our children the way our mothers mothered us yes I am the servant of objects, re managing and maintaining all of our stuff what I had heard all my life described as the liberal, intellectual, highbrow East Coasthad been calling to me for years like a whistle that was pitched so high no one else in my family could hear it Yes She also makes a convincing case for her central argument that the conversation of demented people is full of metaphors taken from their lives and that if you know them and know the stories of their lives, you can make sense our of much of their conversation.

  10. says:

    Disclosure I received this book through the giveaway on Goodreads.The story of a woman who re discovers pieces of her life while her mother slowly loses hers.This book is difficult to review because I feel conflicted about it If the truth be known I would probably give it a 3.5 if Goodreads had that type of rating system I feel conflicted because the author is such a talented writer She is a fine crafter of sentences, feelings, mood, place and the intricacies of human relationships She knows how to get to the point and make it beautifully For instance on page 133 the author writes I am just beginning to get a reputation in the family as the Child Who Reads None of the drawbacks of that role have manifested themselves yet Great truths held within great writing Yet, at the same time this was not a story that I was in a frenzy to readit took me almost a week to finish it when I usually read a book within 24 hours I think the reason it took me so long was that I honestly felt at times I was reading the same story thoughts that had been expressed earlier in the book It often felt as if the same message was being repeated over and over again and as such it felt a little slow and boring.All in all a good book which will make you dig a little deeper into your own life and make you pray that no one you know has to suffer with Alzheimers.

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