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Memory's Last Breath: Field Notes on My Dementia

Category: Book
By (author): Saunders, Gerda
Subject:  BIOGRAPHY & AUTOBIOGRAPHY / Personal Memoirs
  FAMILY & RELATIONSHIPS / Life Stages / Later Years
  HEALTH & FITNESS / Diseases / Alzheimer's & Dementia
  NON-FICTION / General
Audience: general/trade
Publisher: Hachette Books
Published: June 2017
Format: Book-hardcover
Pages: 288
Size: 8.75in x 6.00in x 1.00in

Additional Notes

From The Publisher*"[A] courageous and singular book."---Andrew Solomon

In the tradition of Brain on Fire and When Breath Becomes Air, Gerda Saunders' Memory's Last Breath is an unsparing, beautifully written memoir--a true-life Still Alice that captures Saunders' experience as a fiercely intellectual person living with the knowledge that her brain is betraying her. Saunders' book is uncharted territory in the writing on dementia, a diagnosis one in nine Americans will receive.

Based on the "field notes" she keeps in her journal, Memory's Last Breath is Saunders' astonishing window into a life distorted by dementia. She writes about shopping trips cut short by unintentional shoplifting, car journeys derailed when she loses her bearings, and the embarrassment of forgetting what she has just said to a room of colleagues. Coping with the complications of losing short-term memory, Saunders nonetheless embarks on a personal investigation of the brain and its mysteries, examining science and literature, and immersing herself in vivid memories of her childhood in South Africa.

Written in a distinctive voice without a trace of self-pity, Memory's Last Breath is a remarkable, aphorism-free contribution to the literature of dementia--and an eye-opening personal memoir that will grip all adventurous readers.
Review Quote*"The book is remarkable not only for its fiercely honest, sometimes-poetic portrayal of mental decline, but also for the way the author effectively celebrates 'the magisteria of a mind'.... A courageous, richly textured, and unsparing memoir."-Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
Review Quote*"[A] deeply emotional and humbling memoir...a work of breathtaking defiance."-Booklist (starred review)
Review Quote*"This courageous and singular book describes both the indignities inscribed in the erosion of memory and the surprising grace to be found in that experience. At once observer and subject, Gerda Saunders demonstrates how a powerful intellect can remain undiminished even as other mental capacities are compromised. Her book's lessons in dignity will be invaluable to anyone facing the complex meanings of dementia."-Andrew Solomon, National Book Award-winning author of The Noonday Demon and Far from the Tree
Review Quote*"The abrupt loss of everyday memory due to brain injury is swiftly and seriously unsettling. Its slower, subtle decline, the hallmark of dementia, provides time for introspection on its troubling trajectory. Gerda Saunders has given us a window into that chilling, yet poignant, psychological reality. Memory's Last Breath is personal, lucid, and inspiring."-Dr. Michael Gazzaniga, Director of the SAGE Center for the Study of Mind at the University of California, Santa Barbara, and author of Tales from Both Sides of the Brain: A Life in Neuroscience
Review Quote*"Navigating the onset of her own dementia with intelligence and charm, Gerda Saunders has written an engaging mélange of reflection, family history and quest. Memory's Last Breath is a surprising and subtly triumphant contribution to the literature of recollection."-Honor Moore, author of The Bishop's Daughter
Review Quote*"Gerda Saunders' Memory's Last Breath is not only a how-to manual for navigating the emotional and physiological terrain of dementia--an illness that effects the daily lives and hopes of millions--but a highly compelling account of the life of the mind, its developments, repetitions, omissions, and flourishes. Through eloquent, unwavering prose, Saunders guides us through the horrors and humors of an illness that is slowly erasing her mental and physical memory; her insights are lessons in longevity. Above all things, Memory's Last Breath is indelible--a testament to the capacity of language both in a writer's life and a reader's."
-Ann Neumann, author of The Good Death
Review Quote*"Saunders...writes bravely about her early-onset dementia diagnosis, and nicely bridges the intensely personal experience of her failing mind with examinations of neurological science.... Her evocative writing shows her to be a researcher and craftswoman."-Publishers Weekly
Review Quote*"The book (with its astonishing subtitle: 'Field Notes on My Dementia') is a literary achievement ... blend[ing] meditations on memory and identity with brain science, rooted by the writer's anthropologic jottings of daily misadventures."-Salt Lake Tribune
Biographical NoteGerda Saunders emigrated to the United States from South Africa in 1984. In 1996 she received a PhD in English from the University of Utah, where she later served as associate director of the Gender Studies Program. Saunders is the author of the short story collection Blessings on the Sheep Dog. She has spoken with the BBC and The Huffington Post about living with dementia, and is the subject of a series of short films being produced by VideoWest and featured on Slate.