"There's only one man I've ever loved. We met when I was fourteen and we were married for sixty-seven years. What the hell was his name? ~ Nora Jo
Humorous? Yes. Heartbreaking? Absolutely! As Nora Jo Fades Away by Lisa Cerasoli is a poignant and touching memoir about the time Lisa spent caring for her grandmother, Nora Jo, after Nora was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease. Throughout the book I chuckled and laughed a few times and broke down in sobs at others. This wasn’t a book I could take to work and read because I knew I’d be in tears as I read it. It’s not a book I could just grab and read while waiting at the doctor’s office, on the bus, or at the beach. It’s a book that required preparation to read. I needed a cocktail and a box of tissues but yet I couldn’t put it down. It was always with me, tucked away in my purse, hoping that at some point in my day I would be able to steal a few private moments to sneak in one more anecdote of Nora Jo.
This was an exceptionally hard book for me to read because of my personal connection to dementia and Alzheimer’s. We lost my beloved grandfather in January of 2013 and he had been dealing with varying degrees of dementia for his last couple of years. I could personally relate to some of Lisa’s stories of Nora Jo and it broke my heart every time. I appreciated Lisa’s candor while telling of Nora Jo’s battle and dissent into Alzheimer’s. Lisa was honest about her doubts over whether or not she made the right decision by moving Nora Jo in with her and her family, she stressed over Nora Jo’s care and whether she was neglecting her by requiring her to do the things should could do for herself despite her declining mental and physical health, and the struggle between wanting Nora Jo to live while also hoping she would go ahead and pass away so she could end her struggle and be reunited with the husband and son she continually grieved. It was a struggle I experienced myself while my grandpa slowly declined and passed.
Overall this was a sweet story about Lisa’s love for her grandmother, Nora Jo. The reader is able to connect with Lisa’s loving bond for her family, her stress over being a caregiver and her sensitivity to the disease. It was a very well-balanced book and so beautifully written. I was concerned about how I would handle a humorous look at such a serious and sad situation but Lisa handled it with love and care. She was absolutely not poking fun or belittling the situation or disease. It was very graceful and tactful.
At the end of the book is a scrapbook of photos of Lisa’s family and the various phases of Nora Jo. It was bittersweet to sit and look through these photos after finishing the story. I wept with a deep sorrow for a woman I never met but who was obviously so deeply loved.
As a special note: One dollar for every book sold will be donated directly to a fund for The Alzheimer’s Association and Leeza’s Place.
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