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Hard to Forget: An Alzheimer's Story Hardcover – April 25, 2000

4.6 out of 5 stars 11 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

One day Pierce's father, John, left his home in Massachusetts on an errand. He wound up three days later in a Vermont jail. The police assumed from his confused state that he was intoxicated. In actuality, he was suffering from Alzheimer's disease--a fact that both Pierce (a writer-at-large for Esquire and a regular contributor to National Public Radio) and his mother long refused to acknowledge: "I felt the truth bending inside me, turning the last three mad days into some familiar shape, and I realized what I was feeling was the comfort of denial." Pierce makes a notable contribution to the growing literature on this affliction by combining a family memoir with an overview of Alzheimer's history since its discovery in 1906 by Alois Alzheimer and of the state of current research into the genetic causes of the disease. Among the scientists whose work Pierce covers are Allen Roses and Peter Hyslop, whom he labels the "Genome Cowboys" and who, Pierce claims, failed to receive due credit for their discovery of an early-onset gene because of rivalry in the scientific community. The author poignantly describes how he detached himself emotionally from his father's worsening condition and how this detachment affected his wife, Margaret, and children. Margaret was the sole family member who accepted her father-in-law's disease and tried to combat her mother-in-law's consistent denial. Pierce himself is at great risk for Alzheimer's--in addition to his father, three uncles died of the disease--but, as yet, he admits, he has not been tested. He has, however, overcome his resistance to the truth and in so doing has crafted this excellent memoir. Author tour. (Apr.)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

Shortly before Memorial Day in 1985, Pierce's 70-year-old father went to the florist to buy flowers for the family graves. Three days later, he was found by police sitting in his car in Montpelier, VT, 250 miles away from his Massachusetts home, unable to remember his name or telephone number. Soon afterward he was diagnosed with Alzheimer's--a diagnosis that the family, especially Pierce's mother, refused to accept. Beneath the author's denial lurked the fear that he, too, would become a victim of the disease--his father's four brothers also died from it. A writer for Esquire, the Boston Globe, and GQ, Pierce used his journalistic skills to learn everything he could about the disease's history and prognosis and the search for its genetic links--while witnessing his father's decline. His book is a fascinating account of the fierce competition among the "genome cowboys" (the cutting-edge scientists racing to be first to identify new Alzheimer's genes). Although his genetic explanations are somewhat murky, Pierce's writing talents and his revelations of the darker side of genetic research and of families struggling to make sense of this devastating disorder make for a refreshing change from most feel-good, first-person Alzheimer's accounts. Highly recommended for aging collections.
-Karen McNally Bensing, Benjamin Rose Inst., Cleveland
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Random House; First Edition edition (April 25, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0679452915
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679452911
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 6.2 x 9.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #677,352 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Who should buy this book:
-- Those who have a family member with Alzheimer's Disease. -- Friends of those families. -- Health-care providers. -- Fans of the nationally-known sportswriter Charles Pierce, because the prose in his first book (his work has been included in many sportswriting anthologies) is just as wonderful as it is on the sports pages.
Hard To Forget is the story of a young family -- Charles Pierce, his wife Margaret Doris,their new baby Brendan, and Margaret's son Abraham -- how they came to grips with the family denial of Pierce's father's Alzheimer's Disease. In 1985, Pierce's father John went to place flowers on the family graves in Worcester, Massachusetts, and vanished. He was found three days later in Vermont. When Charles and Margaret went to fetch him, John didn't recognize his son: "I think I'm going to give him that car," he told Margaret.
Charles Pierce's mother denied that anything was particularly the matter with her husband. Margaret, his wife, assumed the role of caretaker for her in-laws, trying to deal with the day-to-day issues and to convince her mother-in-law of the reality of the situation. Abraham, her son, found something new to dread in childhood: Sunday visits to Grandma and Grampa Pierce, and the fight in the car on the way home. Charles noticed not only his father's symptoms, but his uncles' and aunt's, and began researching the disease and its tendency to run in families. Would he get Alzheimer's? Would his new baby boy? Should he be tested? What did it mean when he couldn't find his parked car?
Pierce weaves together his family's story with a readable history of Alzheimer's Disease and the current, and sometimes conflicting, research. He reports on the studies done on the Amish and on a group of nuns.
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By A Customer on May 9, 2000
Format: Hardcover
My mother in law is in the early stages of a progressive dementia (vascular dementia) whose symptoms are the same as Alzheimers. Alzheimers is the most well known of the forms of dementia but all are equally devastating to the individuals and their families.
I found Pierce's book hard to put down. Since I live with a person afflicted with symptoms so similar to those he describes, the reading of his narrative became completely absorbing. His strategy of combining historical perspective and scientific background with personal stories and experiences seemed to me to fill in, in a very useful way, where some of the more clinical, or the more purely personal, accounts leave one still wondering and curious about the impact of KNOWING about the disease on family members and on sufferers. Not all family members want to know as much as others about the disease and its implications. And, of course, those afflicted with dementia may or may not ever have a true moment of realization of the fact of their affliction.
The account Pierce gives of how his family member is able, at an early stage, to recognize what is happening to him, and way Pierce describes the last interaction in which they communicated and meaningful messages got through is especially affecting.
I have also found helpful, for day to day living with dementia, The 36-Hour Day, which is out in a newer edition now. But Pierce's book has something else to offer, and truly evokes the tragic mysteriousness of how we actually lose people before our eyes, while they, unaware, become increasingly hard to care for.
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Format: Hardcover
I had to search hard to find this book, because other "Charles Pierces" kept coming up online and it was hidden in "aging" or "disease, listed alphabetically" in the bookstores, but I recommend you persevere -- it was worth it. Somehow the author manages to combine a poignant memoir, exploring the way we're taught in our families of origin to deal (or not deal, in the case of the Pierces) with serious issues, with a highly readable account of what doctors know and are racing to find out about this cruel disease. On Saturdays, I often listen to Pierce on the NPR shows "Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me" and "Only a Game," and he is very funny. Some of that humor, although darker, leavens this book, which also gives an amazingly understandable summary of what scientists know about Alzheimer's and possible treatments. I hope people will read the excerpt here (or in Yankee magazine) and give this book a chance, even if they don't personally know someone with Alzheimer's. With all of us Baby Boomers aging faster than we care to admit, there are expected (according to last week's cover story in Time magazine) to be many, many new cases that eventually will touch most of us. Alzheimer's disease is depressing, but this beautifully written book is not. Highly recommended.
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By A Customer on June 28, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Fortunately, my family has no history of Alzheimer's disease. My only experience with the disease came from my next door neighbor. An elderly couple moved into the house next store to my family home when I was only 3 years old. The couple became my third set of grandparents. The husband, Howard, died about three years later. His wife began to suffer from Alzheimer's shortly after his death. I remember being very confused when she asked me to fetch her sweater that was upstairs on the sewing machine, when she lived in a one story home. My mother tried to explain her condition to me, but I did not understand how she could not know there was not a second floor in the house she had been in for about 5 years. Her family decided to put her into a nursing home because of an injury she sustained in a fall. She died before the Alzheimer's got worse. Since I never had to deal with anyone suffering from Alzheimer's after my neighbor died, I never learned about the disease. I picked up "Hard To Forget: An Alzheimer's Story" to learn about the disease, and what happened to my third grandmother. I found the book very informative and interesting to read. Pierce wonderfully blends together the history of the disorder and his own family's experiences. I managed to finish the book in one sitting because of Pierce's captivating style. I would recommend this book to anyone who wants to learn more about Alzheimer's disease, or anyone who is looking for an enjoyable and informative read.
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