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From Barnes & NobleThe Barnes & Noble Review
Writer Thomas DeBaggio, who was diagnosed with the early onset of Alzheimer's disease at age 57, describes Losing My Mind as "the story of a man surprised by his body and the sudden deterioration of his mind," but it is far more than that. In addition to being a highly original and, at times, devastatingly poignant memoir of illness, the book is nothing short of a real-time account of witnessing one's identity slip away through a pattern of increasingly serious memory lapses, ranging from misspelled words to the experience of winding up in different rooms of the house without knowing why.
DeBaggio writes, "Sometimes I go into the kitchen for a drink of water. By the time I get there I can't remember why I am there, but my body ends up at the ice machine. I stand in front of the ice machine and stare at it. From somewhere inside my head comes the message 'You are in front of the ice machine because you want a glass of water.' At other times I can't remember why I went into the room and my body and mind are no help to me. Sometime later my mind flashes a message and I remember but it is so long ago I am no longer interested."
Listeners of National Public Radio may be familiar with a series of interviews DeBaggio and members of his family did with Noah Adams aimed at increasing public awareness about Alzheimer's by illustrating the progress of his disease. The book is written in the same spirit but differs in that it weaves together three distinct narrative lines. One records the author's earliest long-term memories, beginning in childhood and continuing up through the 1970s. Another takes a more clinical view, describing the latest Alzheimer's research. Both of these are of interest, but more powerful by far is DeBaggio's own first-person narrative chronicling his attempts to manage his present condition and make sense of his daily life.
It is in this voice that he writes, "One of the small pleasures of having any illness is the opportunity it provides to tell people about it." Yet in another passage he admits to being "afraid to write because watching the words come out distorted is painful and it reveals the destructive power of the disease over which I have no control." Anyone concerned about Alzheimer's will be thankful he sought out the small pleasures rather than succumbing to his fears, and will hope he continues to do so. (P. L. Jennings)