Tangles: A Story About Alzheimer's, My Mother, and Me

Overview


In this powerful memoir the the LA Times calls “moving, rigorous, and heartbreaking," Sarah Leavitt reveals how Alzheimer’s disease transformed her mother, Midge, and her family forever. In spare blackand- white drawings and clear, candid prose, Sarah shares her family’s journey through a harrowing range of emotions—shock, denial, hope, anger, frustration—all the while learning to cope, and managing to find moments of happiness. Midge, a Harvard educated intellectual, struggles to comprehend the simplest words; ...
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Overview


In this powerful memoir the the LA Times calls “moving, rigorous, and heartbreaking," Sarah Leavitt reveals how Alzheimer’s disease transformed her mother, Midge, and her family forever. In spare blackand- white drawings and clear, candid prose, Sarah shares her family’s journey through a harrowing range of emotions—shock, denial, hope, anger, frustration—all the while learning to cope, and managing to find moments of happiness. Midge, a Harvard educated intellectual, struggles to comprehend the simplest words; Sarah’s father, Rob, slowly adapts to his new role as full-time caretaker, but still finds time for wordplay and poetry with his wife; Sarah and her sister Hannah argue, laugh, and grieve together as they join forces to help Midge. Tangles confronts the complexity of Alzheimer’s disease, and ultimately releases a knot of memories and dreams to reveal a bond between a mother and a daughter that will never come apart.
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Editorial Reviews

The Guardian (UK)
Midge Leavitt begins showing symptoms of Alzheimer's in her mid-50s. Her handwriting starts to wobble, she loses herself in familiar parts of town, and strange,
"blankety-blank" headaches shift around in her skull. Losing words and stories proves particularly debilitating for a woman who was once so enthused by them–with her husband, fellow teacher Rob, she "built a life of books and art and creativity". Leavitt responds in kind in this heartbreaking memoir, which follows her mother's gradual decline and her family's reaction to it. Her simple line drawings are rarely fascinating in themselves but they serve the story well, capturing facial expressions with subtle brevity and showing the subtext behind brave or cruel words as Leavitt's voice stretches from calm rationalizing to an anguished wail and back. Stark details–accounts of tidying up after a woman whose body is no longer her own and trying to communicate with a mother who can barely recognize her family–are married with warm, funny recollections of Jewish-Canadian life.”— James Smart
National Post (Canada)
Tangles is simply a fine and touching book. As the rate of Alzheimer’s continues to increase as the population ages, Tangles
joins Jeffrey Moore’s novel The Memory Artists and Sarah Polley’s film
Away from Her at the head of a list of illuminating and much-needed artistic responses.— Ian McGillis
Elissa Schappell
“Not only a spot-on portrait of the dark comedy and vast sadness that Alzheimer’s contains, the book is a fitting tribute to Leavitt’s mom.”
Lesley Fairfield
“Beautiful detailed drawings capture perfectly the joy, frustration,
sense of loss, humor, and poignancy of dealing with Alzheimer’s.
I welcome this book, as compelling, instructive, and yet enormously comforting too.”
Rosalind Penfold
“This is a really important book. I can’t get it out of my head...we should all own a copy.”
James Smart - The Guardian (UK)
“Midge Leavitt begins showing symptoms of Alzheimer's in her mid-50s. Her handwriting starts to wobble, she loses herself in familiar parts of town, and strange,
"blankety-blank" headaches shift around in her skull. Losing words and stories proves particularly debilitating for a woman who was once so enthused by them–with her husband, fellow teacher Rob, she "built a life of books and art and creativity". Leavitt responds in kind in this heartbreaking memoir, which follows her mother's gradual decline and her family's reaction to it. Her simple line drawings are rarely fascinating in themselves but they serve the story well, capturing facial expressions with subtle brevity and showing the subtext behind brave or cruel words as Leavitt's voice stretches from calm rationalizing to an anguished wail and back. Stark details–accounts of tidying up after a woman whose body is no longer her own and trying to communicate with a mother who can barely recognize her family–are married with warm, funny recollections of Jewish-Canadian life.”
Eleanor Cooney
“[Leavitt’s] drawings . . . put me in mind of Roz Chast . . . [her]
skill, economy of line, and efficiency of vocabulary give you plot and interwoven characters, humor, pathos, comedy, and tragedy enough for 500 pages of prose.”
Ian McGillis - National Post (Canada)
Tangles is simply a fine and touching book. As the rate of Alzheimer’s continues to increase as the population ages, Tangles
joins Jeffrey Moore’s novel The Memory Artists and Sarah Polley’s film
Away from Her at the head of a list of illuminating and much-needed artistic responses.”
E. Prather Palmer
“The story has a definite place in the literature available to persons who have to deal with this terrible tragedy. The format (a graphic novel) is fresh and will appeal to the younger generation who are just beginning to come to grips with this crisis. Sarah describes very clearly many of the various problems that occur with each stage of the illness. She is very honest about her reactions and feelings as well as her attempts to cope with them. There are many lessons for others to learn but the biggest lesson is that it is OK to have reactions, feelings and frustrations that are not always “correct” as one watches a loved-one’s progress. I think that the graphic novel tells the story in a more vivid and personal way than most books could possibly do… I
know from my years of experience that the novel will be very helpful to others dealing with Alzheimer’s
.”
John Bayley
“An extraordinarily moving and vivid account, in text and cartoon-style pictures, of the life and death of an Alzheimer’s patient.”
Library Journal
The neurofibrillary tangles within the brain cells of Alzheimer's patients refers also, in this title, to the tangled "boings" of hair characteristic of the women in Leavitt's close-knit, intellectual family. Her Harvard-educated teacher mother, Midge, began to show signs of the disease at age 52, and it progressed over the next six years through unpredictable stages of knowing to unknowing, recognition to cluelessness, beguiling affection to hostility to vapid cheer to no-being. Meanwhile, Leavitt cries, writes, and draws, finally crafting the whole into this debut composed of vignettes of family history and Midge's decline. In dialog, she captures the oddly alluring poetry spilling from Midge's compromised persona: "Oh broccoli, who are simple." VERDICT Says Leavitt, "Our parents taught us, as very young children, that language, words, and books belonged to us, that they were exciting and powerful." Pairing words with simply drawn, evocative line art, Leavitt has crafted a glowing, heart-wrenching memorial to the woman who gave her such a gift. Useful for anyone with an Alzheimer's patient among family or friends, for health-care professionals, and for graphic arts programs as an example of how simple art can tell a powerful story. So far, the only published Alzheimer's-related graphic novel—and highly recommended.—M.C.
Kirkus Reviews
The power of this graphic memoir is not that its story about a family dealing with Alzheimer's is so extraordinary, but that it has become so ordinary. In her first book, Canadian writer and cartoonist Leavitt shows her mother agreeing to have her experiences with the disease documented because "[m]aybe this will help other families!" And likely it will, letting those experiencing the dementia of someone they love know what to expect, and to reassure that the tangled emotions they feel in response--anger, frustration, devotion, humor--are inevitable. Though this is primarily an account of the author's experiences as her mother becomes all but emotionally unrecognizable, it is also a narrative spanning two three generations of complicated family dynamics. Leavitt illustrates significant differences between her mother's closeness with her sisters and how the disease affects those relationships, and the contrasting tension between the author and her sister. It shows the strains that Alzheimer's puts on everything--from the sufferer's well being and sense of purpose to a loving marriage to the physical demands of caring for someone who can no longer care for herself. The narrative is human, honest, loving and occasionally even funny. "I created this book," Leavitt writes in the introduction, "to remember her as she was before she got sick, but also to remember her as she was during her illness, the ways in which she was transformed and the ways in which parts of her endured. As my mother changed, I changed too, forced to reconsider my own identity as a daughter and as an adult and to recreate my relationship with my mother." Not simply the story of a disease, but of the flawed, complex, intelligent people whose lives it transformed.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781616086398
  • Publisher: Skyhorse Publishing
  • Publication date: 5/1/2012
  • Pages: 128
  • Sales rank: 834,964
  • Product dimensions: 7.62 (w) x 10.30 (h) x 0.51 (d)

Meet the Author

Sarah Leavitt is a writer and cartoonist. She has published comics, fiction, and nonfiction in magazines, newspapers, and a number of anthologies, including Nobody’s Mother and Beyond
Forgetting: Poetry and Prose About Alzheimer’s Disease. She lives in
Vancouver, British Columbia.
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