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The Story of My Father: A Memoir Paperback – June 8, 2004


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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Miller's first nonfiction book (after While I Was Gone; The World Below; etc.), about caring for her Alzheimer's-afflicted father, is a rare example of an illness memoir with widespread appeal. Prospective readers need not have any interest in Alzheimer's; they need only have parents of their own to appreciate this testimony's dignity and grace. Miller's father, James Nichols, started showing signs of dementia in 1986, when he was picked up by the police after ringing a stranger's doorbell in the middle of the night, announcing he was lost. Miller's careful recounting of James's slow demise and progression through the various stages of an assisted living community are punctuated by pleasant memories and even humor, e.g., when James, a retired religious scholar, assesses his surroundings and comments, "No one ever seems to graduate from here." As she recalls childhood stories and family memories, Miller simultaneously offers a memoir of her own development as a writer. "[T]his is the hardest lesson... for a caregiver: you can never do enough to make a difference in the course of the disease," Miller writes. "We always find ourselves deficient in devotion.... Did you visit once a week? you might have visited twice. Oh, you visited daily? but perhaps he would have done better if you'd kept him at home. In the end all those judgments, those self-judgments, are pointless. This disease is inexorable, cruel. It scoffs at everything." 11 photos.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

As her father succumbs to Alzheimer's, Miller examines both his life and her own. The popular novelist will launch her first book-length piece of nonfiction with a seven-city tour.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Random House Trade Paperbacks; Reprint edition (June 8, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0345455444
  • ISBN-13: 978-0345455444
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.5 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #381,778 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars
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See all 23 customer reviews
Anyone who has a loved one who is suffering from this disease should read this book.
Sammy Eerdmans
Sue Miller's story about her relationship with her father and caring for him during his illness was very true to life.
p w gillespie
We, the readers, are likewise fortunate that she has written what had to be a very difficult book for her to write.
H. F. Corbin

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

19 of 19 people found the following review helpful By bensmomma on August 12, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Perhaps I am a bit jaded; my father-in-law is in the late stages of dementia, and over the years I have read many books written by relatives who watch over a loved one's decline into this disease.

What Sue Miller adds to this "genre" is the general excellence of her writing. (Miller is well-known as the author of novels such as "The Good Mother.") Thus, "The Story of My Father" rises above the sad story of her father's decline (a story whose outlines will be familiar to many of us) and gives us more, a touching portrait of the man her father was throughout his life.

I did not learn anything new about Alzheimer's from reading this book. But I think most of us read books like this not for the medical facts, but for the sense that we are not alone, that other people have been there, too. If that describes you well, you will find "The Story of My Father" a very sympathetic choice.
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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on March 17, 2003
Format: Hardcover
I pre-ordered this book after reading a review of its subject matter. Although I'm not sure it will reach a reading audience wider than those who know a family member or friend who has Alzheimer's, but it could educate others willing to read Miller's book.
My father is a retired Episcopal priest who is afflicted with Alzheimer's-like dementia and is currently in a nursing home Alzeheimer's unit after the death of my mother in 2001. Such nursing care was evidentally, sadly, unavailable to Miller's father. My mother was my father's primary caregiver as he descended further into dementia, with its cruel behaviors expressed erratically, resulting in confusion for the afflicted person as well as emotional and physical abuses to those who knew him before this hideous disease destroyed his brain and much of his memory. My mother also tried to do those monumental caregiving tasks with very minimal outside assistance. Not a good idea. It was her choice, despite my brother and myself trying to convince her otherwise. I know she saw it as an act of devotion to him, but with her own health problems ignored, she began to fail, both physically and mentally. Those who have dealt with Alzheimer's directly or indirectly, know that it is not uncommon for "devoted" caregivers to be the first to die almost literally from self-neglect.
Miller's memoir of her father reminded me at times of my own relationships with my parents growing up, so I could relate to much of what she has written here. Like Miller, my academic background was in English and writing, including receiving a graduate degree in English. Unlike Miller, I became a licensed clinical social worker in recent years as a result of returning to graduate school for a second time to pursue a professional degree in that field.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Jamie Bourgeois VINE VOICE on September 28, 2003
Format: Hardcover
Ms. Miller did a wonderful job putting together the story of her father's illness and how it became intertwined with her life. I used to work with Alzheimer's and dementia patients and saw how difficult it was for families, not to mention the person suffering. Many families fall apart because they can not make sense of what is happening to their parent, but it was encouraging to see someone stick by and care for their parent. I think this memoir accurately portrays the slow loss all people involved go through. Its a great book for caretakers and anyone touched by this disease.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Jana P Porter on July 9, 2003
Format: Hardcover
I have not been so moved by a book since the death of my own father 10 years ago. Sue Miller's memoir of her father's last years with Alzheimer's Disease tells the reader more about her than about her father. Her ability to stay connected to the complexity of feelings she experienced, even when they overwhelmed her and she couldn't articulate them, is astounding. Most moving of all is her father's final gift to her - a much deeper understanding of herself, of him. and of their relationship.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Daniel Kuhn on July 19, 2005
Format: Hardcover
This is Sue Miller's first nonfiction book about her father, James Nichols, who started showing signs of Alzheimer's disease (AD) well before he was picked up by the police after getting lost while driving his car. That incident, however, proved to be the moment of truth for his family yet Miller explains the tendency to repeatedly deny the disease: "It came and went anyway, and so again and again I was able to argue myself out of acknowledging it." Instances of acceptance are described too as she notes, "I found out there were still things I could learn from him, still things he could teach me, things that helped bring him home in my memory from the faraway land of his disease." Miller describes her father's slow progression through the disease and the resulting transitions from home care to different levels of residential care. She has few compliments for professional caregivers, suggesting that staff and families alike did not know how to care for persons with dementia when her father was diagnosed in 1986.

Miller's sad and pleasant memories in the midst of his decline are placed within the context of her childhood and family of origin. She describes in detail many of the ways that her father's personality shaped her own way of thinking and her career as a writer. She recalls the cruel irony of watching her father, a church historian, wrestle with a disease that chipped away at his own history over a period of eight years. She does not write simply about his AD, for he had a fulfilling life before its onset. His life before and after the onset of his disease are examined as a whole. Miller does not wish to remember her father as a man rendered helpless. She tries to reclaim him as the loving parent he was for most of his long life.
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