The Washington Post
The Last of His Mind: A Year in the Shadow of Alzheimer'sby John Thorndike
Joe Thorndike was managing editor of Life at the height of its popularity immediately following World War II. He was the founder of American Heritage and Horizon magazines, the author of three books, and the editor of a dozen more. But at age 92, in the space of six months he stopped reading or writing or carrying on detailed conversations. He/i>/i>/i>
Joe Thorndike was managing editor of Life at the height of its popularity immediately following World War II. He was the founder of American Heritage and Horizon magazines, the author of three books, and the editor of a dozen more. But at age 92, in the space of six months he stopped reading or writing or carrying on detailed conversations. He could no longer tell time or make a phone call. He was convinced that the governor of Massachusetts had come to visit and was in the refrigerator.
Five million Americans suffer from Alzheimer's, and like many of them, Joe Thorndike's one great desire was to remain in his own house. To honor his wish, his son John left his own home and moved into his father's upstairs bedroom on Cape Cod. For a year, in a house filled with file cabinets, photos, and letters, John explored his father's mind, his parents' divorce, and his mother's secrets. The Last of His Mind is the bittersweet account of a son's final year with his father, and a candid portrait of an implacable disease.
It's the ordeal of Alzheimer's that draws father and son close, closer than they have been since John was a boy. At the end, when Joe's heart stops beating, John's hand is on his chest, and a story of painful decline has become a portrait of deep family ties, caregiving, and love.
The Washington Post
In this engrossing memoir, author Thorndike (Anna DeLaney's Child, Another Way Home: A Single Father's Story) tells a touching story of family, death, discovery and devotion, in which Thorndike probes his journalist father's accomplishments and losses, his relationships and his wife's tragic suicide. When his father Joe Thorndike, suffering at age 92 from congestive heart failure and the onset of Alzheimer's disease, can no longer take care of himself, Thorndike offers to live with him. Over the following year, Thorndike chronicles his father's growing incapacity, and seeks to learn more about him despite the dying man's lifelong all-but-impenetrable reserve. While much of the book details Thorndike's difficulties caretaking for his father, he heightens the proceedings with family tales, including some from his father's editorial work at the heyday of Life, working with bold named figures like the Luces, Whittaker Chambers, James Thurber and Winston Churchill. A beautiful book, this memoir reveals the painful chaos of Alzheimer's, as well as the strength, faith and unexpected joys that come with caring for a loved one in his last days.
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“This book tells a hard story, the relentless decline of a father’s memory and self-awareness. John Thorndike writes a beautiful sentence, a beautiful page, and describes his father’s last year with piercing clarity, but also great warmth. He opens a world we will all have to face.”
Natalie Goldberg, Writing Down the Bones
"In The Last of his Mind, John Thorndike has given us far more than a book on dealing with Alzheimer’s. This taut, clear-eyed memoir of a son caring for his father in his final days is an act of consummate literary bravery, allowing us to witness the final dance between two flawed and admirable men."
Rob Wilder, author of Daddy Needs a Drink and Tales from the Teachers’ Lounge
"Here in detail is a story we fear for our loved ones, a story we fear for ourselves. Yet Thorndike also conveys the humor and joy, the contemplation and compassion, and the reconciliation and healing that were part of this journey. The result: The Last of His Mind is both heart-wrenching and heart-warming."
Lady Borton, author of After Sorrow: An American Among the Vietnamese
"The frankness of this haunting memoir is totally disarming. Thorndike addresses the banalities and small tragedies that attend the great event of a lifetime with an unblinking eye. Told in his luminously clear prose, the plain story of the unraveling of a mind and a life find its way into the heart like our own blood. An important, beautiful book."
Henry Shukman, author of The Lost City
- Ohio University Press
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- 5.40(w) x 8.30(h) x 1.20(d)
Meet the Author
John Thorndike is the author of two novels, Anna Delaney's Child and The Potato Baron, and a previous memoir, Another Way Home. He lives in Athens, Ohio.
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