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Lockhart's work as a neurobiologist is a result of what she values most in life -- the ability to understand how we connect to the world. But her lifelong interest in the brain takes a personal and unwelcome turn when her
widowed mother begins to demonstrate the signs of Alzheimer's. Not even Lockhart saw her mother's recent shyness and fatigue as a symptom of the trouble to follow.
At the same time as her mother begins a descent that will render her helpless, Lockhart marries and becomes pregnant. As the tiny cells in her mother's brain begin to founder, healthy cells in her own body have begun to multiply, marking the beginning of her role as "mother in the middle" -- caregiver to an ailing parent and parent to a new child. In an attempt to stave off the inevitable, Lockhart moves her young family from the East Coast to her childhood home of San Francisco. As she sets out to construct a new life on top of old memories, her mother's condition worsens, threatening the fragility of Lockhart's marriage, career, and growing family.
What makes Lockhart's account unique is her melding of accessible science writing with the intimacy of her own story. In so doing, she conveys an agonizing process with bravery and honesty.
(Spring 2009 Selection)
In this impressive debut memoir, Lockhart, a former UC-Berkeley neurobiologist, chronicles her struggle to raise two daughters while tending her own mother, rapidly deteriorating from Alzheimer's. A masterful storyteller and lyrical in describing biological processes, Lockhart renders perceptive family portraits, tracing how the mundane movements that anchor everyday life-driving to the grocery store, making coffee, folding laundry-can warp when stymied by dementia, and strain even the strongest relationships: "The distress Ma projects when her schedule is disrupted infects me immediately." Lockhart treats her mother's mental unraveling as a painful foil to the budding vitality of her own growing family, but it is the intense relationship with her mother that emerges as the book's central duet. For all her fascination with the minute workings of neurobiology and the development and decline of the brain, Lockhart suggests how easily her scientific knowledge is thwarted by her denial as a daughter. The question of who is the parent and who is the child-asked by so many dealing with Alzheimer's-remains unsettled long after Lockhart's drama arrives at its honest, if startling, conclusion. (Feb. 3)Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
In her first book, Lockhart, a biologist, relates noticing small changes in her mother's behavior that turn out to be early signs of Alzheimer's disease-her increasing forgetfulness and anxiety over small matters, her disorientation and fretfulness. At her husband's insistence, Lockhart finally makes an appointment with a neurologist who diagnoses Ma with Alzheimer's. Her symptoms improve a bit with medications, although she suffers from the drugs' side effects. As she watches Ma's condition deteriorate, Lockhart realizes, "This is my future. My two children will grow as my mom disintegrates, and I will be there in the middle." Although Ma's symptoms worsen, she continues to live alone until she unexpectedly dies in her home. As Lockhart cleans out the contents of her mother's house, she discovers that Ma had kept a diary for years, even as her memory was failing. She writes that her mother's "words connected me to my children as they grew and to my mother as she faded away." Often heartbreaking, Lockhart's book is highly recommended for Alzheimer's and memoir collections. A terrific companion to Elizabeth Cohen's The House on Beartown Road and Joyce Dyer's In a Tangled Wood.
Karen McNally Bensing
From the Publisher
"Mother in the Middle is a caregiver's journey told from the most unique vantage point. As a neurobiologist, Sybil Lockhart reveals a fascinating view into an Alzheimer's we normally can't see into the very molecules and neurons gone haywire inside her mother's brain. As a daughter, Lockhart reveals her mother's Alzheimer's as she sees and feels it with unflinching honesty, empathy, and love. It is a story about losing a mother and becoming a mother, about a mother's mind, told from a daughter's heart." Lisa Genova, author of Still Alice
"Sybil Lockhart's insights as a neurobiologist and a daughter watching her mother disintegrate from dementia are meaningful and poignant and her writing about mothering her own daughters equally so. In the midst of the pain are uplifting lessons and a new map for living with the illness of a loved one." Richard M. Cohen, New York Times bestselling author of Blindsided and Strong at the Broken Places