Like so many other tragic circumstances in life, seeing a loved one suffer from Alzheimer's feels deeply personal, but involves struggles that are universal. In Mama Is Still Here!, Norris Lee Roberts Jr. writes about his mother's experience with the disease now plaguing five million people in the United States captures both sides of the struggle.
Throughout the book, we gain a clear picture of who Daisy (the Mama in question) is. A great cook with a special skill for making coconut cake, the "family's memory maker," a doting mother and a loving wife; the woman at the center of the story shines through even as she sometimes fails to recognize those parts of herself.
With this book, Roberts both celebrates all the things that make his mother special, while at the same painting a clear picture of the challenges most Alzheimer's patients and their families face. For anyone who doesn't know what to expect from an Alzheimer's diagnosis, the book covers many of the basics:
Roberts recounts all these experiences as they played out in his family and describes the emotional toll they often took. But he also takes care to emphasize the moments when his mother was more present as her usual self, and how much more valuable to him, his father, and the rest of the family those times were because of the challenges they'd faced. He starts off each chapter with an inspiring quote, and ends it with a relevant scripture and prayer in the hopes of giving the reader something they can use to get through the hardest times.
While there are moments when the book would have benefitted from an editor, the level of the writing isn't really the point. The familiar experiences for Alzheimer's patients and the emotions they provoke in the people they love come through clearly. For anyone reeling from a recent diagnosis of their own, wondering what to expect in the days to come for a loved one in the early stages, or just looking to hear that someone else has dealt with what they're going through – this book can provide catharsis, guidance, and the feeling that you're not alone.
Review by Kristen Hicks