Saturday, December 3, 2016

Stages of Grace by Connie Ruben : A Review


BOOK TITLE: The Stages of Grace: Life and Love in the Face of Alzheimer's

AUTHOR: Connie Ruben

ISBN/ASIN: B00MV1QUM8

GENRE: Non Fiction / Memoir, drama

NUMBER OF PAGES: 149

FORMAT: Digital

SERIES / STANDALONE: Standalone

HOW I GOT THIS BOOK: I thank Laura of iRead Book Tours for this review copy

SUMMARY:

This book was written out of a desire to share with others who have loved ones with Alzheimer's disease what I have experienced as Grace' caregiver and friend. I wanted to capture the emotions, the expected and the unexpected issues, the painful times as well as the humorous and loving moments that Grace and I have shared as a result of this disease. This is not mean to be a handbook for dealing with Alzheimer's disease, but I hope that by sharing my feelings and experiences, readers may recognize they are not alone on this particular journey.

FIRST IMPRESSION:

Memoirs have never been books I really look forward to reading. Especially those about haunting ailments and the loss of loved ones. But as a book lover, and someone who looks at diversity in the genres I read, I sometimes sit down to read a memoir / autobiography. Somehow, knowing that I am reading about real people, who have lived real lives, long or short, that has in some way been noticeable enough to write a memoir about changes my whole perspective while reading the book. This was no different. The cover (and the image) looks stunningly simple and graceful (not a pun in anyway). By the author's own admission, it is not the best individual picture of either of them but there is something so beautiful about it that it works well as the cover image. The summary was short and to the point, and spoke volumes about the relationship between the caregiver and the patient.

REVIEW:

The first thing I will note about memoirs is the sincerity of the tone in which they have been written. This is purely a subconscious habit but to me, a honest book written in simple language works better than a book that uses words with a flourish, adding more drama and trying to make the book more memorable / quote worthy. I read Stages of Grace in one sitting because it was simple, it was beautiful and very heartwarming. It does help, though, that Connie Ruben is an amazing narrator, trying to find a fine balance between telling the story as it is and including the details that will make it not only understandable but also enjoyable to the reader. Yes, enjoyable - I use this word because it is hard to stay with a book if the author doesn't manage to interest you. Not to be confused with using more of the drama element, writing a book that is interesting is more about the straightforward and simple style.

Connie Ruben has managed to pen down her experiences with her mother in law Grace Ruben (and now we know how apt the title is) as she watched her be affected by Alzheimer's and gradually become increasingly worse by the disease. She has done so in an interesting manner, and for many reasons, this book is memorable. I have not had to face the painful feeling of watching a loved one become incurably sick, but I have known enough people who did to help me empathise with what I was reading in this book. I could understand, at least in parts, what Connie would have felt while writing the book, trying to relive, many times over, each of those painful little incidents that happened during her time as a caregiver.

The book works because it is written well. But it also is from the heart and I can understand how much Connie loved Grace as a friend, a mother and a mother in law with the way she talks about Grace. The depth of the bond is quite visible in the words Connie chooses to describe Grace and there is a simple, almost humorous honesty in the way she talks about herself and the beautiful years they shared together. I have always admired the courage it would take for someone to relive, in writing, what was probably the most trying and testing time of their lives. But those who have the courage to do it - maybe to help someone else who might be just as confused and lost as they were or to just speak about their experiences - are exceptional people.

Stages of Grace talks about all the emotions the family of the affected person might feel. The discomfort, the denial, the shock at seeing a strong, witty, talented beautiful person losing their essence, the despair at the diagnosis and ultimately the resigned acceptance. The sooner this phase gets over, the better for everyone involved. It is not an easy task to see a loved one suffer, and it is harder still to have to stand by them, seeing them become a shadow of the person they once were. There are times when one would get angry, at the drab hand fate had dealt them with, or be reduced to tears, unable to pour out what the emotions are when they have to understand the extra care and affection the patient needs. It is hard to classify a loved one as a 'patient' who needs to be cared for, and not show them that aspect. Connie's honest account speaks not only about her stages of acceptance but also about how her mother in law Grace reacted at every juncture.

This is in no way a guidebook to dealing with Alzheimer's but coming from a person who has seen the effects of the disease from close quarters, this book (probably even inadvertently) gives tips on dealing with the same. The tips are not always about finding the right way to behave around the affected person, but also about how they themselves are handling the disease. There are some beautiful quotes from the book (I have chosen very few of some exceptionally good ones that impressed me) that gives the reader an idea of how the book is.

On her initial impression of Grace Ruben

Her kind manner is not a behavior she works to maintain; the naturalness of it cannot be learned or emulated.
On not always knowing the best thing to do
Hindsight can be disingenuous; it suggests that there was a path to be followed even when we couldn’t see it.

On handling the devastating diagnosis

Grace deserved my best support, my confidence and assurances. She didn’t need my fear.

We were nervous, and nervous people find a lot to be afraid of.

Finally, summing up the disease and the frustration.

It seems so unfair that Grace has to endure this and that those of us around her have to witness it.

VERDICT:

A beautifully written, emotional account of dealing with Alzheimer's from someone who knows how it is.

RATING: 4.5/5

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Connie Ruben is an entrepreneur with well developed management skills. She has run several large companies, and prides herself on empowering others to work to their full potential. Connie also has an intimate knowledge of the challenges and joys of caring for a family member with Alzheimer’s disease, as her mother-in-law Grace was diagnosed with advanced Alzheimer’s disease in 2003. While Connie still struggles to balance her work life and home life, her understanding of this disease has made it easier for her to negotiate the demands of being a caregiver, as well as a wife, mother, and employer. She has written this book in order to share the insights she has gained as Grace’s primary caregiver and friend. Most importantly, Connie wants this book to assure others that caring for someone with Alzheimer’s disease can be enjoyable, life-affirming, and emotionally significant.

EDITIONS AVAILABLE: Kindle, Paperback, Hardcover

PRICE $9.35 for Kindle, $14.99 for Paperback, $29.99 for Hardcover

BOOK LINKS: Amazon

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