The Journey Home: Portraits of Healing, by Gabriel Bron, is a collection of vignettes and memories, ultimately telling the story of a family as the parents age and cope with dementia.
The individual events and the family memories are unique, of course, but the story is about the universal experience of reversal, as parents age and begin to need care from their children. Looking at his parents' full lives, Gabe, our narrator, is able to see his childhood memories and family stories with new depth. When it becomes clear that recovery is not possible, won't go away with a rest, that there won't be a miracle drug, The Journey Home becomes a gentle story about dignity and family affection as minds and bodies fail.
Well, I say this is a memoir about Alzheimer's, but it really has familiar notes for anyone who's ever returned home after a long time away. Gabe has traveled extensively so his experiences caring for aging parents is also about returning to childhood memories and getting to know and understand his parents in a later stage of life. Many of the vignettes are about connecting what he's seen on his travels with his memories of small-town life, and about connecting different worldviews.
The non-linear format of this book feels like a story in translation, perhaps from Gabe's years living abroad, or simply because real life rarely fits neatly into rising action, climax, falling action, and then resolution that American kids learn in high school. Anyone who has cared for a relative or coped with their own medical issues knows that disease rarely takes a straight line. There are reasons for optimism as well as serious setbacks in this story, without a real pattern, just as in real life. This book is told in connected scenes and memories, creating the feel of family life over years.
The Journey Home is a recommended read for caregivers, as well as a sensitive look at one family for any readers.
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