Customer Reviews


75 Reviews
5 star:
 (28)
4 star:
 (14)
3 star:
 (20)
2 star:
 (7)
1 star:
 (6)
 
 
 
 
 
Average Customer Review
Share your thoughts with other customers
Create your own review
 
 

The most helpful favorable review
The most helpful critical review


17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Comfort Food
Alex Witchel has provided us with a memoir that celebrates the joys of life, grieves its sorrows, and then fills the sorrowful stomach with food. Part cookbook, part love story, this unlikely combination brings a unique type of memoir to the bookshelves and its arrival is welcome.

This is the story of a daughter who watched helplessly as her sharp-minded...
Published on October 2, 2012 by N. C. Moore

versus
14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A bit disappointed
Having had a similar experience to the author's with my own mom, I could certainly relate to the mental/psychological/emotional struggles she recounts in this book. However, as one reviewer says, her memoir is a bit "thin." I didn't find the recipe conceit to work well, especially when it doesn't seem that food and cooking were really that much an integral part of her...
Published on November 10, 2012 by M. Brown


‹ Previous | 1 28 | Next ›
Most Helpful First | Newest First

17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Comfort Food, October 2, 2012
By 
N. C. Moore (Winston-Salem, NC United States) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: All Gone: A Memoir of My Mother's Dementia. With Refreshments (Hardcover)
Alex Witchel has provided us with a memoir that celebrates the joys of life, grieves its sorrows, and then fills the sorrowful stomach with food. Part cookbook, part love story, this unlikely combination brings a unique type of memoir to the bookshelves and its arrival is welcome.

This is the story of a daughter who watched helplessly as her sharp-minded professor-mother lost her edge and began "disappearing in plain sight" at the hands of dementia. After a prescription for Xanax is abandoned, former a New York Time's food columnist, turns to the kitchen instead to cope with her grief. Since the author had the foresight to gather a folder of her mother's favorite recipes, she set to work recreating these favorites as means of bringing her mother back with all the aromas, sights, and sounds of her kitchen.

The author's mother, Barbra Witchel, a working mother of four, had a cooking style the author describes as modern-convenient. She wasn't afraid to use a can of tomato soup or a handful of corn flakes in her meatloaf. Who has the time to make tomato soup anyways? For modern readers who find the cooking matriarch Julia Childs' recipes a little out of reach, these recipes (especially the meatloaf) will be a welcome addition to the 21st century kitchens of busy mothers.

Witchel's experience will likely resonate with many adults who have watched in dismay as a the mind of a beloved parent or grandparent has disappeared before our eyes, leaving us to care for the body of an old friend but the mind of a new one. Taking over her mother's care taking responsibilities was so consuming that the author once claimed her mother's 1931 birthdate as her own out of habit.

"All Gone," is not mostly a sad book, though it may make you cry. It's a celebration of life, a damning of dementia, and a treasuring of the many unique memories that a recipe card can make immortal as generations come and go. It is recommend for those who have watched or are watching a loved one's mind deteriorate at the hands of this bandit-disease.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A bit disappointed, November 10, 2012
By 
Having had a similar experience to the author's with my own mom, I could certainly relate to the mental/psychological/emotional struggles she recounts in this book. However, as one reviewer says, her memoir is a bit "thin." I didn't find the recipe conceit to work well, especially when it doesn't seem that food and cooking were really that much an integral part of her family history. While I completely understand that the tedium of life with a loved one who is literally losing her mind is a very challenging narrative to address, I found Witchel's detours into her own career (New York Times, here we go again in another memoir) and her lack of detail about her father and her parents' relationship to be glaring. Finding a caregiver like the one she did is a godsend and literally almost impossible to accomplish; I was envious. What I did like was the manner in which the author addressed the guilt, the letting go, the finding a way to accept the unacceptable. More of this and less of the name-dropping and potato pancakes would have been better.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I love this book, October 31, 2012
By 
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: All Gone: A Memoir of My Mother's Dementia. With Refreshments (Hardcover)
I bought this book at the airport on the way to take care of my 89 year old mother who does not suffer with dementia, but is steadily losing interest in things she once enjoyed immensely, e.g., reading a book a week and working the New York Times Crossword puzzle daily. In writing about losing her mother bit by precious bit, Alex Witchel tells a story of what happens to all of us when we begin to lose those we love, and what we can do to help them die happy. This book is an insightful treasure in how family crises can bring out the best and worst in us. What saves the author from despair is the steady loving focus on her mother, not on how hard it is personally to live with the loss...though both are woven beautifully into this story. Because my mother still enjoys the foods she's always loved, cooking her favorites is something we both enjoy, as did Alex Witchel and her mother. Favorite recipes are woven into the story, and it only took a few pages before she had me at "meatloaf." This book is a heartwarming love letter from a dutiful daughter to her soulfully loved mother. I have since bought five copies of this book to give to friends who are living the heartbreaking story of seeing their loved ones disconnect from this world as they move toward what I believe is the everlasting life from which they were born. If you are looking for a perfect gift to give those who are helping loved ones die happy, treat yourself to this wonderful book.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful, touching memoir., October 9, 2012
This review is from: All Gone: A Memoir of My Mother's Dementia. With Refreshments (Hardcover)
I have been on quite a memoir kick as of late. Each has been better than the last and thankfully, All Gone followed that pattern as well.

In All Gone, author Alex Witchel recounts her mother's battle with dementia. With refreshments, of course. The book begins with how Ms. Witchel copes by cooking her mother's recipes, using food as a way to bridge the gap between who her mother was and is becoming. Each chapter ends with a difference recipe from Alex's collection, recipes formed not only in food but memories. All Gone is packed with sentiment. She portrayers her dilemma with heartbreaking truthfulness. As a reader, I felt her grief, her sadness at losing her mother although she is presently here in body. As Alex says, gone but not gone.

This memoir touched me deeply especially since my parents are getting older. I read this partially in fear of what I might have to go through. I hope that if I was ever in the same situation, I would survive with as much poise and grace as Ms. Witchel has. The beauty in this memoir not in the coping though. It is in how Ms. Witchel finds her way back to herself.

I believe foodies and non-foodies alike will enjoy this short memoir. It also inspired by to search out my own family recipes, to learn how to make them with as much love as my parents cook and to make my own food memories.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars not about dementia, November 29, 2012
This review is from: All Gone: A Memoir of My Mother's Dementia. With Refreshments (Hardcover)
I was disappointed. The title suggests the book is a memoir of her mother's dementia, whereas the book is really about the author and her love of food and her issues with her father. Not a very interested book. I found it very boring and learned nothing about dementia.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Less about her mothers dementia and more about her personal accomplishments in her career, August 7, 2013
By 
Laura (Pennsylvania) - See all my reviews
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: All Gone: A Memoir of My Mother's Dementia. With Refreshments (Hardcover)
It takes a lot for me to write a negative review- with that said consider this a negative review. This book, which was marketed as a memoir of a woman who was dealing with her mothers dementia was more about her writing career with a hint of dementia on her mothers part. There were cute recipes, which went along with memories of childhood, but this book did NOT deliver what is was marketed as. I truly expected more from a writer who is employed by the Times.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


13 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I Remember Mama, Kosher-Style, October 4, 2012
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: All Gone: A Memoir of My Mother's Dementia. With Refreshments (Hardcover)
Being a huge fan of Alex Witchel's writing, I couldn't wait to read this book. I was not disappointed. She writes in a witty, self-deprecating, conversational style that immediately makes you feel like you're a new best friend she's taken into her confidence, serving up candid and insightful accounts of the primary relationships in her life with the kind of attention to culinary details that will make every food-obsessed Jewish baby-boomer immediately sigh with identification. She even provides recipes--not high-end Julia Child undertakings, but rather the kind of tasty and satisfying mid-century short-cut approaches found on the backs of Ritz crackers and matzoh meal boxes and in the 1969 Temple Israel Sisterhood cookbook. As she affectionately recalls her lifelong love affair with her mother, she shares memories of both the proud and painful experiences that helped to shape her character not always in the most beneficial of ways. This helps to prepare the reader for the confusion she feels when everything that's comforting and familiar about this relationship changes, and while she manages to keep her sense of humor and never ever lapses into sentimentality, we still feel the heartbreak, loss, and absence of closure that's perhaps the most difficult thing to accept for those of us who were raised on TV shows like Donna Reed and movies with Hayley Mills where everything gets neatly resolved at the end. Funny, smart, touching, honest and delicious, this is Witchel's best book to date. Highly recommended.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Her mother was the real love of her life. Then she vanished -- in plain sight., October 25, 2012
This review is from: All Gone: A Memoir of My Mother's Dementia. With Refreshments (Hardcover)
Salmon swim upstream, and so do the children of unhappily married Jewish women.

Alex Witchel had the full cast of characters. A remote, disapproving father who once punched her in the face and then insisted that she apologize. A hard-to-please mother who wound her children up tight, kissing them as they went off to the first day of school and offering this wish: "May you be brilliant."

I know this story. As you may. It's a suburban story of middle-class Jews with modest houses and big dreams. This one comes with recipes: the food of our people. Meat loaf, potato pancakes, chicken with prunes, frankfurter goulash. If you are Jewish and of a certain age, this world is as familiar to you as a Philip Roth story set in Newark; it's what you can't get away from, no matter how great your success in the city.

Not that Alex tried. She graduated Phi Bete and triumphed in New York, writing charming articles about food for The New York Times and marrying its then-drama critic, Frank Rich. Emotionally? She never really left her mother.

But her mother left her.

Barbara Witchel, force of nature, director of the Iona College graduate campus, a mother of three who got her PhD after she had kids, who gardened, cooked, ran a fastidious house, drove a convertible --- in her early 70s, a stroke sets her on the road to dementia.

"It's called ambiguous loss," a social worker tells Alex. "Gone, but not gone. She is your mother, but not the mother you knew. If she had died, it would be easier to grieve the loss. It's hard to do that when she's sitting in front of you."

"All Gone" is a record of that disappearance. So are a lot of books. Memoirs like this are how the left-behinds keep the people they lose close, as present as their parents were when they first imprinted on them. These books are eulogies, delivered in advance. Are they maudlin exercises? Mostly.

I single out Alex Witchel's book for praise because it's more than a story of a triumphant personality laid low. It's other books as well. A mother-daughter love story. An account of a young woman finally figuring out that her boyfriend of a decade is, in his way, as abusive as her father, and moving on to meet and marry a mensch. And, not incidentally, how cooking --- even with canned vegetables --- binds generation to generation.

"All Gone" is also a writer's book. That is, it's an elegant, smart literary construction that amuses and breaks your heart by turns. It delivers killer sentences - like her mother, to Alex: "You can't make me happier. I'm losing myself. What's to be happy about?" --- at just the right time. Or passages like this:

"Would I prefer to have lost my mother completely, without warning? I used to think the answer was no. Still, as hard as that would have been on me, maybe it would have been better for her. To die as herself. Because the worst part was watching her know that she wasn't in there anymore -- watching her face as she heard herself speak and saw how other people reacted. No awards for bravery for keeping going while realizing how diminished you are, watching flashes of yourself crackle then disappear, like lightning."

Sad? Yes, but it's a pleasure to read a book this sad.

Oh, and the book has a hero. As her mother loses her mind, so does Alex; she's forgetful, distracted, depressed. In a word: absentee. I can think of a dozen husbands, feeling neglected, who would look for relief elsewhere. Frank Rich, at a critical moment, takes Alex's hand and says, "I'm waiting for you to return to me." Could you write a more piercing line? I couldn't.

Dementia and its cousin, Alzheimer's, are showing up in the lives of more and more of our parents. For the adult children who are whipsawed by the experience of losing a parent in plain sight, Witchel's is a short, powerful guide to the path ahead. It's also that tough thing to pull off --- a beautifully calibrated piece of writing that is not at all calibrated in its emotional honesty.

If she knew what her daughter had made here, Barbara Witchel would be very proud.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars All Gone: A Memoir of My Mother's Dementia. With Refreshments, October 23, 2012
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: All Gone: A Memoir of My Mother's Dementia. With Refreshments (Hardcover)
When I learned Alex Witchel had published a new book I preordered it. The last book of hers I had read "Me Times Three" was amazing. (I'm still waiting for the movie.)

I read some reviews that talked about crying and recipes and wondered if this a book for me? But then I read the book. I didn't find myself crying, but instead found myself connecting with the story of our new generation who through the miracles of modern medicine get to see our parents live much longer then we'd imagined. While we celebrate this amazing progress, we haven't really had a discussion about what all this means to our humanity.

Through flashbacks from her childhood into her adulthood the memoir was a story about what it means to really love aging parents. She puts the guilt and sheer exhaustion of kids trying to be perfect parents to our parents right out there. She's starting a discussion that most of us are afraid to have about our concerns in the dignity of growing old in a culture that values only workplace productivity and the fear we all share of dying alone.

Like all great memoirs we are taken beyond just voyeuristic peering into another person's life. In this story, I saw a wonderful example for what it really means when we tell our mothers we love them.

This is a great read for any kid who is wrestling with becoming their parent's parent. And don't be surprised if you find yourself cooking while you read.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Disappointed, April 27, 2013
By 
Jeanne Holtzman (Franklin, MA United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: All Gone: A Memoir of My Mother's Dementia. With Refreshments (Hardcover)
I was looking forward to reading this book. By all accounts, I should have loved it. I am Jew from The Bronx and my mother had Alzheimer's. I was ready to be swept away by a fellow traveler's journey. Instead I was disappointed by the language of the book. No lyrical prose in sight. And I felt I had been duped. While it was subtitled " A Memoir of My Mother's Dementia, with Refreshments," the bulk of the book was back-story which I found boring and self-indulgent. There was precious little about dementia or even how the family coped with it. Very disappointing.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


‹ Previous | 1 28 | Next ›
Most Helpful First | Newest First

Details

All Gone: A Memoir of My Mother's Dementia. With Refreshments
All Gone: A Memoir of My Mother's Dementia. With Refreshments by Alex Witchel (Hardcover - September 27, 2012)
Used & New from: $0.01
Add to wishlist See buying options
Search these reviews only
Send us feedback How can we make Amazon Customer Reviews better for you? Let us know here.