What do you get when you put a daughter and her beloved father together? In the case of Christine M. Grote the end result is a wonderfully moving book that chronicles the life of a man from humble beginnings who lived a full and successful life filled with ups and downs.
I have been a fan of Christine’s writing for quite awhile. I first started following her blog, Random Thoughts from Midlife, several years ago and loved her voice. She is truly one of the most gifted writers I have had the chance to follow and I was thrilled when she allowed me the chance to read and review her first book, Dancing in Heaven, a moving memoir about her severely disabled sister, Annie. When I found out she had another book in the making I knew I was going to want to read it and Christine gifted me a copy to facilitate my review.
Where Memories Meet: Reclaiming My Father After Alzheimer’s is a skillfully written piece that documents the ravages of the disease on a loving father and husband in a very readable way. While it is not by any means “light” reading it is a must read for anyone who has a loved one who finds themselves caught up in the throes of this horrible disease. If we are honest about it that is just about everyone because Alzheimer’s seems to have touched everyone’s life in some way or another.
Christine found the perfect way to tell her father’s story by alternating chapters showcasing her own thoughts and writing to chapters that were straight from her father’s mouth through interviews that she was able to conduct during his final 4 years. The flow made sense and I honestly loved being able to have the story presented this way. Christine also added a lot of valuable information about Alzheimer’s and included sources that are invaluable to anyone who wants to understand more about the disease itself.
The book honestly made me cry at some points because it was so gut wrenchingly real. That is a good thing. It is important to be real when we deal with real life issues and Christine definitely handled this very well – fully admitting at times how difficult it was to be a part of her father’s journey and decline. Maybe that is what is so important about this book. It does not sugar coat the struggles that are a result of having Alzheimer’s but instead provides important information that will help others in similar situations. Christine was also able to definitely capture her father’s humor and wit in many ways and I felt like I was a good friend of her father by the end of the book. That makes me wish I could have met him in person.
If you have a loved one diagnosed with Alzheimer’s this book needs to be on your” to read list”. I am so glad that Christine invested the time and effort to write what I believe will be a very helpful book and a tribute to a man that had a pretty amazing story to tell.
Christine graciously agreed to answer a few questions that I posed to her. I thought it would be a great way for my readers to get to know her a bit better. Thanks, Christine, for allowing me the chance to read this book and for providing me with such great responses.
1. What is your favorite thing about sharing such personal stories about your family? Or maybe a better question is what was your motivation?
I believe in the power of our stories. From the earliest times, humans have shared their stories, as evidenced by writings in caves. Stories benefit the storyteller as well as the listener or reader. In my case, I’m probably seeking a sense of understanding, acceptance, or maybe support in telling my stories. But that works both ways. I hope by telling my stories others will see that they are not alone and will achieve a sense of understanding, acceptance, and support. I have found this to be true for people who have had a similar experience as what I have written about. I also share the stories of my experiences so that others, who haven’t had a similar experience, may be able to understand something a little more fully. We learn from each other. And one of my beliefs about life is that we are here to learn and understand as much as possible. That’s the rational answer to your question. But the reality is, often I begin to write before I ever imagine the end result. I often begin to write because I need to.
2. If you could sit down with one author (dead or alive) for an hour or so who would it it be and why?
It would have to be one of the women authors of the Romantic/Victorian era, maybe Jane Austen or one of the Bronte sisters. Jane Eyre may be my all-time favorite story. It would be fun to talk to Charlotte Bronte about how that story came to be. I also think Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights is an all-time great. Maybe I could get a two-for-one pass and talk to both sisters. Jane Austen did a fantastic job of bringing to life the flaws in the social standards of her time period. And she had a great sense of humor. I might have to choose her. These women were using the one tool they had at their disposal to speak out about some of the inequities the female gender, in particular, had to deal with during their lifetimes. I love that about them.
3. One piece of advice for anyone who has a story to tell?
If I might offer a second piece of advice, it would be think about your story in terms of scenes. Draw little boxes on a paper if it helps, and jot down what scenes you need to create your story. Then pick one, and start writing the scene. One of my teachers told me that, and it has been good advice. But more than anything else, you have to begin.
4. How long did it take you to write your latest book? How did you write it? Did you write a section at a time and take a break or did you jump in and keep at it until you were done?
I consider interviewing and research part of the writing process. With that in mind, I began Where Memories Meet in 2008, long before I knew what form the book was going to take. I began it by interviewing my father about his life story. I transcribed tapes and saved them. I also wrote journal entries during this early time period. As Dad’s Alzheimer’s progressed, I started writing blog posts about our journey. I used many of those posts from 2011 to 2013 in the book. I took a lot of breaks. It was an emotional journey for me, and there were times when I just couldn’t see a clear path to a book. Things were changing with my parents as I was working on this, so I took a lot of breaks. For example, I had the book well underway before either of my parents died. When that happened, it changed a lot of things.
5. What is your favorite writing spot? Many people have a favorite chair, location or time of day to write. Where / what is yours?
I typically write at my computer desk in my study. It’s just easier for me to keep everything in one place. Maybe if I were writing fiction, that didn’t require a lot of research or other materials, I would move around a bit more—go to the coffee shop, sit out on the porch, etc. But I’ve used a lot of printed out interviews and other materials in writing this book. It was just easier to sit here. I also still like to print drafts out frequently and put pen to paper in my editing. I have a comfortable chair and a nice view out of the window. So it works for me. Any time of day, really, although I probably should get a little more disciplined about that.
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