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on March 6, 2012
Tangles is equal parts celebration and lament, as much an anatomy of Alzheimer's as it is an intensely moving matremoir. Reading Tangles had me reliving many of the details of my mom's last years, and remembering the frustrations, the moments of fierce anger, the depressions, the sparks of humour, the exhaustion, and the closeness and caring which her slow regression and death brought to our family.

Alzheimer's is a disease of diminishment and indignity, and part of Sarah Leavitt's triumph is that she doesn't shy away from showing the darker parts of the process. Nor does she hide the dark snakes of depression, fear, and pettiness which attack her and other family members. She also shows how the disease often makes small children of patient and caregivers, and the immediacy and cartoon quality of her graphic narrative medium work wonderfully to reach the child in us all. Her telling has a vulnerability and a visceral impact which written text alone could not achieve.

As a graphic memoir, and one in which recognition and acceptance of the author's lesbian identity play a part, Leavitt's book will inevitably be compared to Alison Bechdel's Fun Home. Midge Leavitt, though, was much more nurturing, much less conflicted than Bruce Bechdel; and consequently Tangles is much less dark than Fun Home. Both books pay tribute, but where Bechdel remembers her father to map herself Leavitt remembers her mother to grow and nurture. Unsurprisingly, both books can be seen as mirroring the respective parent described. Whereas the art and language of Fun Home is carefully crafted and highly polished, Tangles is rougher and looser in style, a garden, "tangled, but with spots of brightness."

Tangles also bears comparison to important Alzheimer's books such as John Bayley's Elegy for Iris, Lisa Genova's Still Alice, and Michael Ignatieff's Scar Tissue. Like these books, it is a good story well told. Like these books, it belongs in every library, not just in those of Alzheimer's afflicted families.
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on April 21, 2012
I read a lot of graphic memoirs (any I can find, actually) and purely text-based memoirs, and I found Tangles to be one of the most moving and engaging I have read.

Tnagles is one woman's story about the experience of losing (and finding, in some ways) her mother to Alzheimer's, and so I suspect anyone touched by the disease would find this compelling and oddly consoling. However, I did not read this because I am personally suffering the loss of a family member to Alzheimer's and yet reading Tangles felt therapeutic in some way I find hard to explain.

Because the other reviewer mentioned it and it is an obvious point of comparison, I would place Tangles up there with Bechdel's Fun Home. They are very different, though, in terms of the focus of the narrative, the style of delivery, and the shape of the text itself (physically and intellectually). Bechdel's covers a much wider span of time in a more densely collected series of panels.

Tangles, on the other hand, covers just a 6-year slice of life from the onset of her mother's disease through her death. Her text is less dense and connected. In fact, Leavitt punctuates the chapters of her text with tiny bits of unconnected dialogue, things her mother said or wrote in her own hand--and this is so perfect for the story she has to tell. Leavitt's voice, illustrations, and story are so real and honest, I wouldn't change a thing.

I would strongly encourage anyone considering buying this for any reason to do so.
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on July 23, 2012
How this book could be anything less than a 5 star, I'll never comprehend. (To rate it less because it is not in some published form is beyond idiotic.) This book is one of the best I've ever read. If you want to know what love really is, read this book. It is about a loving family coping with Alzheimer's. Unless you have no heart, you will love the people and shed tears with them. You will become informed not clinically but experiencially about Alzheimer's. You will be a better person for sharing their lives. If you doubt the human race, some measure of belief will be restored. Deeply moving. Informative. The medium could not be more appropriate. Text and drawings combine seamlessly to convey message.
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on February 26, 2014
This is how it really feels to take care of your mom who has Alzheimer's. ( I did this also, though my mom was much older than Midge Leavitt ). It includes the painful parts (their early hurt and fear, the irreversible progress of the disease), the funny parts (the humorous way they express themselves, the funny things they think to do), and the sweet moments (there are still moments when you see their core-- the one you love -- coming through). I am impressed how well documented it all is -- the telling details are well and lovingly recorded. When you are in the situation it is hard to remember what one phase was like when you are already into the next one. While I was reading it, I cried. It made me remember my mother, and I miss her, Alzheimerish or not. I really enjoyed Sarah's description of her family life -- it seems like a wonderful family to to have grown up in. Her drawings are simplified and expressive, and they complemented her storytelling very well -- I found the combination easy to understand and deeply affecting.
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on March 19, 2013
This book exquisitely portrays the experience of dementia from the perspective of the person with the diagnosis and the family. With just a few lines and drawings, Sarah Leavitt captures the complexity of living with dementia. She depicts the changing world of all participating in this drama, including the abandonment of friends, the insensitivity of some physicians, and the caring work done by home health workers and nursing home staff. I am eager to lend this book to my research team of graduate and undergraduate students who are investigating dementia knowledge, attitudes, and concerns among persons who live in our region. This book will teach them more than many textbooks!
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on February 10, 2015
Tangles is Sarah Leavitt's graphic memoir that recounts 8 years of turmoil in her life beginning with when she suspects something is wrong with her mother, Midge, and ends with Midge's death. Leavitt's father, Rob, cares for Midge at home for as long as he can. Meanwhile, Leavitt, her younger sister, Hannah, and Midge's sisters, Debbie and Sukey, help Rob support and care for Midge while her brain deteriorates from Alzheimer's disease. Tangles refers both to the complicated relationships in the family caused by the disease the the very curly hair that both Leavitt and her mother possess.

The introduction to Tangles reminds readers that this is only the perspective of the author, that she assembled this book from notes and sketches, and that the story would be different from other family members' points of view. Her disclaimer allowed me to forgive some of the anger that I see poured onto certain family members, like Debbie and Hannah, who don't look favorably in the memoir when they are bossy or demanding while appearing uninvolved and selfish. Leavitt also admits that she visited three times a year (she lives over 3,500 miles away) and was not with her family constantly, like Hannah and Rob. Leavitt's acknowledgement that her sister and father may be more stressed out or impatient because they're watching Midge fade away up close also let me forgive those characters who appear unlikeable. Clearly, they're under more stress and live with the disease day-to-day. Due to the distance, she gets jealous, even of a cold-hearted cat that doesn't respond to Midge that Midge mindless loves anyway, when she visits her mother.

You can read the rest of the review at Grab the Lapels!
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on September 10, 2013
Even if you're put off by the topic of Alzheimer's, you should read this book. It's one of the most honest mother-daughter books I've every read. And it's such a great use of the graphic novel format. Think Persepolis set in Canada. Yes, it's about losing her mom to Alzheimer's, but really, it's a love story between two strong-willed, smart and funny women. Do yourself a favor and read the hardcopy - the beautiful illustrations really deserve to be seen as the work of art they are.
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on July 27, 2012
This is the story of Midge's sad descent into Alzheimers. Her daughter Sarah conveys the heartbreak of incrementally losing her relatively young, generous and loving mother. At the same time, this book celebrates Midge's life and the strong family bonds that she built with her sisters, her husband and her daughters. Beautiful! I loved this book.
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on December 9, 2014
This book was a funny read on Alzheimer's. Leavitt does a great job matching the pictures with words and helps you understand you are not the only one who is dealing with a relative who has dementia/Alzheimer's
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on February 6, 2016
You may be drawn to this because you are sharing this experience. When life is so heavy, lengthy prose is probably not what is needed. The comic book illustration format is just such an excellent read. I read it in one sitting and laughed and said ewe and at the end I cried. To evoke such strong emotions as this book does is so powerful. You feel a little less alone.
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