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The Living End: A Memoir of Forgetting and Forgiving Hardcover – January 17, 2012

4.9 out of 5 stars 26 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

An affectionate grandson recalls his grandmother’s tussle with Alzheimer’s dementia. After JoAnn, headstrong at 74, has surgery to remove her ruptured silicon breast implants, she is not quite right. Either a small intraoperative stroke or maybe the anesthesia itself has triggered Alzheimer’s. From the diagnosis in 2004 until her death in 2010, JoAnn experiences progressive problems with cognition, ambulation, and disposition. Despite her declining condition, the narrator envisions his grandmother’s illness as liberating. JoAnn is now unfettered by the past and undaunted by the future. A wobbly relationship between humor and suffering is suggested. Humor can be an antidote to misery or possibly a by-product of it. The author spins some sumptuous similes (“suddenly seemed fragile in her hospital gown, packed away like bone china in tissue paper”) but also resorts to cliché (“she seemed to be vanishing before our very eyes”). Although this thin memoir presents too rosy a picture of Alzheimer’s dementia, it does score points with its emphasis on notions of identity, belonging, and family ties. --Tony Miksanek

Review

The Living End is Robert Leleux's exceptionally moving memoir about his beloved grandmother and his heroic caring for her as she slipped into the grip of Alzheimer’s. The book is at times hilarious, tender, and heartbreaking—further proof that Mr. Leleux is ripening into one of the best prose stylists in America.”
—Pat Conroy

“Robert Leleux sets off on a journey that will be familiar to many Baby Boomers - watching a beloved elder painfully slipping away - but his version of the tale is singularly bittersweet, funny, and empathetic.  It's a rare thing to find a memoir of illness that can be described as cheerful, but this one is that - and much more.”
—Mark Childress, author of Georgia Bottoms and Crazy in Alabama

“Robert Leleux's hilarious and poignant memoir of his fractured family takes an unexpected, wholly satisfying turn at the end: as lives ebb, memories fail, and long-withheld loves emerge.” —John Berendt, author of Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil and The City of Falling Angels


 ”Not many people are able to find a silver lining in Alzheimer's, and few writers are gifted enough to make you see it and believe it.  Leleux relates his family's story with love, humor, and hope.”—Margo Howard, “Dear Margo” columnist

“You will never forgive me if you don't read this book and you will never forget the author, Robert Leleux either. Leleux reminds us that the magic of our relatively short time on earth, only exists in a world of forgetting and forgiveness! I believe that Auntie Mame herself would have put her STAMP OF APPROVAL on this book as I have too!”
—Kathy L. Patrick, Founder of The Pulpwood Queens Book Clubs

“This spare, extraordinary book by turns splits the sides and breaks the heart, but it is the healing vibration of laughter you're left with — what comes when one sees existence whole and luminous, and with it the daunting logic of human love.”
—Honor Moore, Author of The Bishop's Daughter

“In a wonderfully engaging heart-of-the-matter voice, Robert Leleux chronicles his chic Texas grandmother's descent into the gloom of Alzheimer's.  He is circumspect in recording the many indignities the disease brings and equally faithful to praise the joys of a happy marriage, of good wigs and zinger punch lines.  Leleux's writing is as bright and elegant as one of his grandmother's hats, his love of family and faith in their enduring strength a rare and refreshing thing.” —Janis Owens, author of The Schooling of Claybird Catts

“Robert Leleux tickles his way to triumph yet again. With his trademark wit and colorful southern charm, The Living End transforms Alzheimer's from a disease associated with loss into a blessing of myriad gain.”
—Josh Kilmer-Purcell, author of I Am Not Myself These Days and The Bucolic Plague

The Living End is as funny as it is heartfelt.  Robert Leleux is among the great emerging talents of his generation; I'm bowled over by the beauty of his writing.”
—Sarah Bird, author of The Yokota Officers Club and The Gap Year

“The Living End is terrific! I could not stop reading this family journey of loss, hope and redemption. With humor and poignancy, Robert Leleux does a magical job of capturing the beautiful and often complex relationship between grandparent and grandchild.”Michael Morris, author of Slow Way Home


“A fascinating Southern tale of an estranged mother and daughter — and the unlikely fate that brings them together. Affably narrated by Robert Leleux, a man who loved both women, The Living End is a touching reminder that, ultimately, we are not defined by our memories. But our commitments to dwelling on the past and resentments can keep us from becoming the person we want to be. Even for those we love the most.”—Neil White, author of In the Sanctuary of Outcasts

"[JoAnn] emerges not only as a beloved figure, but as a larger-than-life character who was eager for the spotlight, funny, gracious, occasionally biting in her assessment of others and altogether inspired.
Leleux sweeps readers from New York to Texas to rural Tennessee on a family pilgrimage—an understated work that highlights the emotional rewards of caring for a loved one." --Kirkus Reviews



"Perceptive as well as funny and poignant, Leleux’s book explains that Alzheimer’s can be a kind of gift; certainly, it allowed JoAnn to forget enough to reconcile with the daughter she hadn’t seen for decades. 'Sometimes our memories deceive us and keep us from being who we are,' said Leleux. But JoAnn herself remains memorable."--Library Journal

 

"The Living End" is funny and tender, and a page-turner. Robert Leleux is witty and wonderful at the putting on the southern charm. His writing is sharp and colorful, and he puts the reader in the thick of the family’s journey with vivid descriptions and dialogue.

The Living End is a reminder that, in the end, we are not defined by our memories. It’s a must-read for both entertainment and relearning some important life lessons."--EDGE

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 160 pages
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press; 1st edition (January 17, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312621248
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312621247
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.7 x 7.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,419,635 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Harriet Klausner #1 HALL OF FAME on January 17, 2012
Format: Hardcover
The family matriarch JoAnn is a Texas Steel Magnolia, which means a tougher brand of metal than the other southern states. Noted for her sandpaper tongue that rips the hide off the toughest cowboy, JoAnn is ironically a glamorous southern belle. However, for decades she and her daughter Jessica, a chip off the obstinacy block, remain estranged as the younger woman believed her mother seemed not to care when she or her grandchild needed her. Ironically, just when Jessica gave up on her, she would do something incredible like sending Robert a ton of books. When JoAnn's memory began to fade due to Alzheimer's, her family found it as a miracle that brought her back into their lives. Much of the two generations' anger vanished as Jessica reconciled with her mom and Robert spent quality time with a grandma who never condemned his choices.

This wonderful upbeat memoir looks at Alzheimer's as a reconciliatory bringing together of an estranged family as by forgetting, JoAnn and her family are forgiving. This positive assertion does not hide from the caretaking problems caused by dementia, but prefers to look at the positive that came out of the disease. Mr. Leleux reminds me of my husband's fondest memory of his beloved mom during her "Living End" Alzheimer's in which she did not know who her kids were but euphorically sucked the last neutrino of a chocolate shake. Much of this biography focuses on the generational war and peace as Mr. Leleux latest memoir (see The Memoirs of a Beautiful Boy) affectionately yet realistically portrays his flawed larger than Texas grandma on her final Cotton Bowl gala.

Harriet Klausner
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I read this book expecting to just learn more about Robert and his family experiences, and to learn how they gracefully journeyed through Alzheimer's. I didn't expect to learn things that cleared up situations we were encountering with my grandmother during her battle with this disease. My grandmother is now in the final stages of Alzheimer's and has just a few days to weeks left with all of us here. It was a pleasure to read and so enlightening; I passed it along to all of my aunts and uncles to read and process. I highly recommend it to anyone, Alzheimer's or not, it's worth the read!

Two for two, can't wait for a third book by Mr. LeLeux!
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Robert Leleux's first book was reviewed the same time as mine in Texas Monthly so when we were both featured at the Texas Book Festival I hoofed it over to hear what he had to say at the Memoir Panel at the festival. It didn't take me long to realize that the author had stole the whole show, I quickly grabbed him as he exited and invited him to be my co-host for my annual Girlfriend Weekend and he has been ever since. I loved his first book and made it an official Pulpwood Queen Book Club Selection. So it was with great trepidation when it came time to read his next book, THE LIVING END. I was biased, I adore Robert Leleux! So in one sitting I read his manuscript and found that my fears that it would not be up to my standards for great reads completely dissipated. THE LIVING END in fact, was so good, so life affirming that I made it this January 2012 our Book Club Selection of the Month for my 530 chapters of The Pulpwood Queens Book Clubs, the largest "meeting and discussing" book club in the world. You may call me biased, but I declare is at ROYAL READ as I am the Queen!
Kirkus gave it a starred review and I have not met one person so far who hasn't found the book a stellar read. The one thing our book club is known for is discovering authors and I have to tell you I am pretty good at it. Some of the books I have discovered have gone on to superstardom are, DIVINE SECRETS OF THE YA-YA SISTERHOOD, BEFORE WOMEN HAD WINGS, THE KABUL BEAUTY SCHOOL, THE GLASS CASTLE, EAT, PRAY, LOVE, SAME KIND OF DIFFERENT AS ME, MY ORANGE DUFFEL BAG, AND NOW THE LIVING END! I have a pretty good track record and I adore Robert Leleux's book, I adore having him as my co-host of my book club convention, now somebody let us have our own talk show and we will get the world reading!
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Buy this book. Actually...buy several copies, because you're going to want to share.

On the surface, "The Living End" is a tribute to Mr Leleux's grandmother. In it he charts her downward spiral from a steel spined Grande Dame of the South to her eventual death due to the ravages of Alzheimer's. But the book is about far more than the tragedy and horror of Alzheimer's. As strange as it sounds, it's a book about gifts. The gift of letting go. The gift of humor. The gift of forgetting old grudges and hurts. And, ultimately, the gift of forgiveness. For his part, Leleux gives the reader the humor and joy to be had on even the saddest of days. There are moments in which I laughed out loud despite myself, and others when I wept openly (and I'm NOT the weepy type). I've given this book to several friends and, at first, I get the tepid "thank you" accorded to someone who passes along an unsolicited book, but later I always get a call later with sincere appreciation for passing "The Living End" to them. So you're going to want to buy several copies. One for yourself and others to hand out.
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