Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Alice's Reviews: All Gone

Summary:  Just past seventy, Alex Witchel’s smart, adoring, ultracapable mother began to exhibit undeniable signs of dementia. Her smart, adoring, ultracapable daughter reacted as she’d been raised: If something was broken, they would fix it. But as medical reality undid that hope, and her mother continued the torturous process of disappearing in plain sight, Witchel retreated to the kitchen, trying to reclaim her mother at the stove by cooking the comforting foods of her childhood: “Is there any contract tighter than a family recipe?”  Reproducing the perfect meat loaf was no panacea, but it helped Witchel come to terms with her predicament, the growing phenomenon of “ambiguous loss ”— loss of a beloved one who lives on. Gradually she developed a deeper appreciation for all the ways the parent she was losing lived on in her, starting with the daily commandment “Tell me everything that happened today” that started a future reporter and writer on her way. And she was inspired to turn her experience into this frank, bittersweet, and surprisingly funny account that offers true balm for an increasingly familiar form of heartbreak.

Review: I have been on quite a memoir kick as of late. Each has been better than the last and thankfully, All Gone followed that pattern as well.

In All Gone, author Alex Witchel recounts her mother’s battle with dementia.   With refreshments, of course.  The book begins with how Ms. Witchel copes by cooking her mother’s recipes, using food as a way to bridge the gap between who her mother was and is becoming.  Each chapter ends with a difference recipe from Alex’s collection, recipes formed not only in food but memories.  All Gone is packed with sentiment.  She portrayers her dilemma with heartbreaking truthfulness. As a reader, I felt her grief, her sadness at losing her mother, although she is presently here in body.  As Alex says, gone but not gone. 

This memoir touched me deeply especially since my parents are getting older.  I read this partially in fear of what I might have to go through.  I hope that if I was ever in the same situation, I would survive with as much poise and grace as Ms. Witchel has.  The beauty in this memoir not in the coping though.  It is in how Ms. Witchel finds her way back to herself. 

I believe foodies and non-foodies alike will enjoy this short memoir.  All Gone inspired by to search out my own family recipes, to learn how to make them with as much love as my parents cook and to make my own food memories. 

Final Take:  4/5



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