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Staff Book Review: Tangles: A Story About Alzheimer’s, My Mother, and Me

Reviewed by Rosemarie Leenerts, Library Assistant

Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive disorder that causes brain cells to degenerate and die. Around 5.8 million Americans are living with the disease—that is one in 10 people 65 and older. The amount of time, money, and effort required of family members to care for a loved one with this illness is unmistakable and often daunting. In the graphic novel Tangles, Sarah Leavitt uses words and pictures to tell the tale of her own mother’s descent into Alzheimer’s and the effect it has on the entire family.

After flying cross-country to visit her parents, Leavitt notices her mother is not acting like her usual self. Once a vibrant, outspoken, and quick-witted graduate of Radcliffe College and then a passionate schoolteacher, Midge begins to act depressed, become detached and forgetful, and make comments out of character. When Midge’s confusion becomes worse, even dangerous, her family seeks medical help. Soon thereafter, Midge is diagnosed, at the age of 55. From there, readers are taken on a journey through the depths of the illness, witnessing the patience required and punishment sometimes endured when caring for a loved one with this disease.

Although Tangles is a personal account of one family’s struggles, it mirrors the experiences of many Alzheimer’s families. To depict the ups and downs caregivers go through, Leavitt uses humor in her story but does not hold back when revealing the frightening, disorienting, and ugly aspects of the disease, no matter how personal.

Leavitt’s drawings are in black ink and are spare, but she conveys a multitude of emotions in her pictures and the accompanying dialogue. Leavitt includes a glimpse into Midge’s past, making readers even more attuned to the inhumanity of a disease that robs people of their memories, personalities, and futures.

Tangles is available to reserve for curbside pickup from Herrick Library. To make a reservation for this title or any other, do one of the following:

 

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