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Book Review: The Glass Seed: The Fragile Beauty of Heart, Mind & Memory

Posted Sep 07 2008 8:38pm

A rare, authentic, and deeply heartfelt metaphor-filled memoir of the meaning of loss due to Alzheimer's disease.

Eileeen Delehanty Pearkes, former Californian, now writing from her home in rural southeast British Columbia, offers an authentic and deeply heartfelt memoir about her mother's decline from Alzheimer's disease. Unlike many family caregivers' books detailing their loved ones' path on this one-way road, The Glass Seed: The Fragile Beauty of Heart, Mind & Memory (2007, Timeless Books), is a spiritual journey filled with mythological metaphors illuminating analogies between a mother's decline and nature's changing seasons and creative pursuits such as gardening, beading, sewing, and quilting.

For the caregiver who desires something more profound and meaningful with which to place the daily role of caregiving in context, The Glass Seed is a literary memoir to savor.

Making pilgrimages by plane and car from Canada to visit her mother in a board and care residence in northern California, Delehanty Pearkes feels the intensifying pain of her mother's life shattering like a crushed "glass seed." Do the broken pieces of glass reveal parts of her mother's true essence? What do her mumblings and behaviors reveal about a woman who raised her children to be proper, not to waste, and to do things right the first time (“measure twice, cut once” when sewing)?

Delehanty Pearkes' writing is compelling, drawing this reviewer to return, time and time again—a page here, a chapter, there—to live with The Glass Seed for two months.

Since this book is rooted in her mother's Alzheimer's, the author's words about the disease and the impact it has on her mother's memory speak to all who have witnessed and are witnessing this loss. "…the disease has … robbed her of emotional memories with astonishing thoroughness, turning her own very personal search for lost time into a confused, fruitless pursuit. The disease always infects the power of the conscious mind to remember. It warps memory, weakens it, and finally destroys it," (p. 17). When her mother talks during fleeting lucid moments, the author discovers potentially lost details of her mother's (and her own?) past: "Memory … stirs and exposes the lost opportunities embedded in forgotten time," (p. 109).

Few nonfiction books accomplish such a deep level of authenticity. While some caregivers may desire more details about her mother's journey, many readers, especially boomers will identify with the examples, reflecting on their own childhoods and their mothers' lessons.

If Delehanty Pearkes' mother were alive today (having learned of her expectations in these pages), Mary Virginia Arnold Delehanty would be proud of her daughter's work, The Glass Seed.

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