The Long Goodbye

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Overview

In The Long Goodbye, Patti Davis describes losing her father to Alzheimer’s disease, saying goodbye in stages, helpless against the onslaught of a disease that steals what is most precious—a person’s memory.  “Alzheimer’s,” she writes, “snips away at the threads, a slow unraveling, a steady retreat; as a witness all you can do is watch, cry, and whisper a soft stream of goodbyes.”

She writes of needing to be reunited at forty-two with her mother, of regaining what they had ...

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The Long Goodbye

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Overview

In The Long Goodbye, Patti Davis describes losing her father to Alzheimer’s disease, saying goodbye in stages, helpless against the onslaught of a disease that steals what is most precious—a person’s memory.  “Alzheimer’s,” she writes, “snips away at the threads, a slow unraveling, a steady retreat; as a witness all you can do is watch, cry, and whisper a soft stream of goodbyes.”

She writes of needing to be reunited at forty-two with her mother, of regaining what they had spent decades demolishing. A truce was necessary to bring together a splintered family, a few weeks before her father released his letter telling the country and the world of his illness.  The author delves into her memories to touch her father again, to hear his voice, to keep alive the years she had with him.

Moving and honest, an illuminating portrait of grief, of a great man, a disease, and a woman and her father.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
Numerous books have been written about former president Ronald Reagan, but none have been more moving or poignant than this memoir by his daughter Patti Davis. Her account of the family's struggles with the realities of Reagan's Alzheimer's disease is raw and personal yet, as one reviewer noted, never "sappy, pitiful, or strident." A powerful statement about a charismatic man and a family's response to a devastating progressive illness.
Publishers Weekly
Ronald Reagan's youngest daughter, Davis is best known as a peace activist who forcefully disagreed with her father's policies. But this graceful memoir demonstrates that she is also a gifted writer. The focus of the journal-style book is her father's descent into Alzheimer's disease, but Davis deftly weaves family history and childhood memories into the surprisingly vibrant fabric of her story. The most startling aspect of this effort is its universality. Readers whose fathers have never held an elected office higher than president of their high school class will still be able to relate to these musings from a daughter who remembers her dad best for their ordinary moments together: swimming, riding horses or chatting about the flight paths of birds. Even though Davis calls Alzheimer's a "haunting presence in these pages," her message of love, loyalty and forgiveness manages to overshadow this "relentless pirate" of a disease. She recalls Reagan's peaceful acceptance of news that his beloved horse, Nancy D, had died: "His first response to death was to remember the beauty of the life that had passed. The memory comes when I find myself wondering, Where are you?" Davis's thoughtful and honest reflections make her father come to life again and should foster remembrances for readers as well. 2 photos. Agent, Don Epstein at Greater Talent Management. (Nov. 16) Forecast: The book's timing-after the flood of Reagan books that immediately followed his death; right before the holiday season-is excellent, which should result in robust sales. 100,000-copy first printing. Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
In 1983, President Ronald Reagan declared November National Alzheimer's Disease Awareness Month. Now in a sad twist of fate, his daughter recalls his diagnosis and battle with the disease, an ordeal her mother, Nancy Reagan, called "the long goodbye." Davis's elegiac memoir consists of her private thoughts, memories of her father and her childhood, and her sorrow at the temporary estrangement that arose between her and her parents. Her narrative of Reagan's death, the moment the family hoped might be accompanied by some long-lost clarity of mind, is moving and rings true: "My father looks straight at my mother, holds onto the sight of her face for a moment or two, and then gently closes his eyes and stops breathing. My mother whispers, `That's the greatest gift you could have given me.' " Despite the author's annoying tendency toward self-absorption, the text flows easily, and the emotions recalled are so universal that many will find comfort in Davis's depiction of an all-consuming grief. Expect demand in public libraries of all sizes.-Cleo Pappas, Zitek Medical Lib., La Grange Memorial Hosp., IL Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780452286870
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated
  • Publication date: 9/27/2005
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 224
  • Sales rank: 720,226
  • Product dimensions: 5.36 (w) x 8.03 (h) x 0.62 (d)

Meet the Author

Patti Davis is the author of five books, including The Way I See It and Angels Don’t Die. Her articles have appeared in many magazines and newspapers, among them Time, Newsweek, Harper’s Bazaar, Town & Country, Vanity Fair, The Washington Post, and the Los Angeles Times.

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Read an Excerpt

April 1995

When I got married in 1984, my father gave a toast at my wedding. I don't remember his exact words, but they had to do with his recollection of how tiny my hand once was, as a child holding on to his, and how so many years later, he was giving my hand in marriage. An older hand, a woman's hand.

These days, I find myself looking at my father's hands. They seem to have grown smaller, a bit more frail. It's as if they no longer need to grasp life, stretch themselves around it; rather, they are learning to let it go. It's a soft release, not like the Dylan Thomas poem I once embraced: "Do not go gentle into that good night, / Old age should burn and rave at close of day."

I still like that poem; I like its fury and its fierce passion. But I think my father's way is sweeter.

I watch his eyes these days, too. They shimmer across some unfathomable distance, content to watch from wherever his mind has alighted. If I turn into his eyes, it's like turning into a calm breeze. The serenity is contagious.

The tendency when you're around someone with Alzheimer's is to try to reel them back in, include them in the conversation, pique their interest in whatever you happen to be discussing. But I stopped doing that because it seemed to me that I was intruding. Wherever he was, he was content. Wherever he was, he shouldn't be disturbed.

At the ranch we owned when I was younger, my father taught me that when a horse was growing older, when riding it would be unkind and possibly harmful, the horse should be allowed a more peaceful life, roaming in the acres of pasture that our ranch provided. I remember several of our horses living out the remainder of their days in wide, green fields, grazing. That's how I think of my father now; it's what I see in his eyes. Things are calmer where he is--most of the time, anyway. And he grazes--on the moments and hours that are left to him. On the sight of afternoon sun gilding the lawn or clouds skimming across the sky. On his family, who have finally learned how to laugh together, and how to love. He grazes on the taste of life as it slips away--the rich, fertile moments that must be released into the wind, because that's what you do if you're like my father, his hand reaching for God's, leaving ours behind, saying goodbye in small ways, getting us used to his absence.

I haven't read any of the books on Alzheimer's. I probably should, but I don't want my thoughts to be cluttered with other people's impressions, or with medical predictions and evaluations. I want to keep watching my father's hands. I want to remember how they've changed, how uncallused and tender they've become. And I want to chart his distance from his eyes. They're a map, but you have to look closely. Sometimes, I think I actually see him leaving, retreating, navigating his way out of this world and into the next. Other times, I see him right there, as if he's preserving each moment under glass.

When daylight saving time dictated that we should move our clocks ahead an hour, I thought of my father. My mother said that the first clock she changed was his watch. He looks at his watch often now--I'm not sure why. Is it that time seems to be moving faster, and he wants to chase after it by marking its passage? Or does each time of day now have a special significance? Either way, losing an hour of time must have had more of an impact on him than it did on most of us. Life is measured in time--in years, months, hours. And one hour just vanished. It wasn't wasted; it wasn't squandered by daydreaming or staring out the window. It was snatched away, erased--because someone decided it should be. I try to see things sometimes as he...

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 5 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 5 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 15, 2005

    Daddy's Little Girl?

    I found that this book is more about herself than her father. It is full of regrets about her past estrangement and lost years with her relationship with her parents that keep bringing her back to her childhood. As a grown person, she stresses constantly how she regrets not being 'daddy's little girl' any longer. I am always surprised at so many people thinking of THEIR LOSS so much more than the feelings and comfort of the dying person. When I lost my parents who were 89 yrs. old, I was full of gratitude for having them had so long in my life (though we lived in different continents), had tried all my life to be good and kind to them and had only hoped for their EASY deaths Maybe because I had lost my only brother at 21 in Auschwitz, I appreciated having my parents for so long in my life. His death was a tragedy (and again we did not think so much of our loss but of his dying after a long suffering, torture -maybe- and being without any family around) my parents' was a natural occurrence. And I never thought of myself as daddy's little girl because when I grew up, I had to leave my childhood behind.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 23, 2013

    Read it!

    It's helping me as my father does not know me (over 2 years now). It helps you cope with the loss.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 8, 2013

    Would not read

    She should have alot of regrets the way she did her father dont care for her

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 16, 2005

    The Long Goodbye is Great

    I thoroughly appreciated Patti's book. My grandmother and four of her seven sibblings all had Alzheimer's. Wondering if it'll hit my generation. Anyway...the book was well written and she just perfectly worded what it's like to lose a parent slowly...Alzheimer's or even cancer...though my father could comprehend (he died of cancer) the process of working up the courage to tell him it's okay to move on was agonizing. It's never easy to lose a loved one. I feel that Ms. Davis did a fantastic job. Thanks!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 12, 2005

    Compelling Read

    Davis draws the reader into the world of her father's illness, and it is definitely a interesting and emotional read. However, the single most compelling sections of the book in my opinion are the word sections when Patti Davis seems to write again and again about her public disagreements with her parents. She obviously regrets those time periods. It is a sweet reading book about family, and a lesson to remember to enjoy each day of our lives.

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