If fiction can be said to have some larger purpose than to entertain or enlighten, it is surely the creation of empathy. A play, a movie or a novel can place us directly in somebody else’s shoes.
Thoughtful and considered fiction can serve as a form of advocacy and insight into living with a diagnosis of dementia.
This post highlights some recently published fiction with a theme of dementia.
A full list of fiction held in the Alzheimer’s Australia libraries can be found here.
Forgetting Foster / Dianne Touchell (2016)
‘Foster suddenly recognised the feeling that rolled over him and made him feel sick. It was this: Dad was going away somewhere all on his own. And Foster was already missing him.’
Foster Sumner is seven years old. He likes toy soldiers, tadpole hunting, going to school and the beach. Best of all, he likes listening to his dad’s stories. But then Foster’s dad starts forgetting things. No one is too worried at first. Foster and Dad giggle about it. But the forgetting gets worse. And suddenly no one is laughing anymore.
I like you just fine when you’re not around / Ann Garvin (2016)
Everything is falling apart in psychologist Tig Monahan’s life. Her mother’s dementia is wearing her out; her boyfriend takes off for Hawaii without her; and her sister inexplicably disappears, leaving her newborn behind. Tig finds herself unemployed and part of the sandwich generation trying to take care of everyone and failing miserably. Just when she thinks she can redefine herself on the radio as an arbiter of fairness, she discovers a family secret that nobody saw coming.
An Absent Mind / Rill, Eric (2015)
Seventy-one, and a man used to controlling those around him, Saul finds himself slipping into what he describes as his slow dance with death.His ramblings, humor, emotions, lucid moments, and confusion are laid bare, as well as the thoughts and feelings of his loved ones: his wife, Monique, conflicted and depressed caring, yet angry; his daughter, Florence, compassionate, yet proper and reserved; his son, Joey, self-centered and narcissistic, seemingly indifferent to his family s challenges; and his doctor, an Alzheimer s specialist, who cares for Saul until his final days.
The things we keep / Sally Hepworth (2016)
Anna Forster, in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease at only thirty-eight years old, knows that her family is doing what they believe to be best when they take her to Rosalind House, an assisted living facility. She also knows there’s just one other resident her age, Luke. What she does not expect is the love that blossoms between her and Luke even as she resists her new life at Rosalind House. As her disease steals more and more of her memory, Anna fights to hold on to what she knows, including her relationship with Luke.
Inside the O’Briens / Genova, Lisa (2015)
Joe O’Brien is a Boston cop; his physical stamina and methodical mind have seen him through decades policing the city streets, while raising a family with his wife Rosie. When he starts committing uncharacteristic errors – mislaying his police weapon, trouble writing up reports, slurred speech – he attributes them to stress. Finally, he agrees to see a doctor and is handed a terrifying, unexpected diagnosis: Huntington’s disease. Not only is Joe’s life set to change forever, but each of his four grown-up children has a fifty per cent chance of inheriting the disease.
The woman next door / Liz Byrski (2016)
A story of neighbours, retirement and aging. The characters in this novel embody women taking charge of their lives and growing old creatively.
The Other Place / White, Sharr (2013)
Just as Juliana Smithton’s research leads to a potential breakthrough, her life takes a disorienting turn. During a lecture to colleagues at an exclusive beach resort, she glimpses an enigmatic young woman in a yellow bikini amidst the crowd of business suits. One step at a time, a mystery unravels as contradictory evidence, blurred truth and fragmented memories collide in a cottage on the windswept shores of Cape Cod.
The Father / Florian Zeller, translated by Christopher Hampton (2015)
The Father. “A wonderfully peculiar, quietly stunning depiction of dementia…A controlled, unforgettable portrait of losing your memory.” (Times). “One of the most acute, absorbing and confronting portraits of dementia I’ve ever seen.” (Daily Telegraph). “A play that constantly confounds expectations and works almost like a thriller, with a sinister Pinteresque edge.” (Guardian). The Father was awarded the Moliere Award for Best Play 2014.
Wrinkles / Paco Roca , (author, artist) (2015)
Admitted to a home for the elderly because he has Alzheimer’s disease, for Ernest community life feels like an ordeal. But soon he accepts his new environment and decides to fight to escape from giving in to his destiny. For the author, the human community is like a library where books are piled up in mountains populated by yellowing paper of dreams and fantasies. Where a life is covered in wrinkles, and some see the writing of their pages disappear, sheet after sheet, until they become completely blank. Despite this, the most intense emotions survive, preserved as a hidden treasure on a remote island.
Roses in December : A Story of Love and Alzheimer’s / Tom Batiuk and Chuck Ayers (2015)
Through the deceptively simple medium of the daily comic strip, Tom Batiuk and Chuck Ayers address the profound effects of Alzheimer’s disease in a thoughtful and occasionally humorous way. Roses in December includes a resource guide for caregivers, patients, and practitioners