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Never Coming Back

Never Coming Back

Blurb

Clara and her mother Tamar have had a fractious relationship for years ever since Tamar all but pushed her daughter out the door to go to college. Since then communication between the two has been strained to say the least and many things lay unsaid between them.

Almost a decade later Clara finds herself moving closer to her home town near the Adirondack Mountains. Tamar has recently become increasingly forgetful and has been diagnosed with early onset dementia. Clara arrives home full of questions for her mother but how will she cope when the mother she knew is no longer there? And how will she come to terms with the knowledge that she has a fifty- fifty chance of being diagnosed with the illness herself.


Our Review

Never Coming Back by Alison McGhee is a woeful and beautifully written book.

This is the first book I have read by Alison McGhee and I was definitely impressed. I loved both the writing style and the depth off all the characters within the book.

Clara and her mother Tamar have had a fractious relationship for years ever since Tamar all but pushed her daughter out the door to go to college. Since then communication between the two has been strained to say the least and many things lay unsaid between them.

Almost a decade later Clara finds herself moving closer to her home town near the Adirondack Mountains. Tamar has recently become increasingly forgetful and has been diagnosed with early onset dementia. Clara arrives home full of questions for her mother but how will she cope when the mother she knew is no longer there? And how will she come to terms with the knowledge that she has a fifty- fifty chance of being diagnosed with the illness herself.

I have always found books on dementia fascinating and I knew as soon as I read about this book that I wanted to read it. In particular, I was excited to read a book specifically about early onset dementia as I had never encountered one before.

Having read it, I would say that Never Coming Back deals with this topic, and many other potentially delicate topics, in a sensitive and accurate manner. I have seen the effects dementia can have on both the person with dementia and their family at both a professional and personal level and this book couldn’t have described it any better.

“Now that my mother was disappearing, I wondered when it began to happen. A few months before her neighbour called to tell me something was wrong, or maybe years ago, when I was in my nomadic twenties and home only once or twice a year? Or did something inside her change in a single moment?”

These are all questions that plague Clara on her return journey to the area she grew up in.

Clara moves home with visions of helping her mother to make provision for long-term care and to sort the house they lived in together for so long. When she returns home though Clara is shocked and dismayed to see that her mother has already sold her childhood home and gotten rid of all her possessions barring Clara’s childhood books and a small shoebox. She has also already sorted out her own residential care. Clara is left feeling hurt and resentful.

One of the benefits of moving back to the area she grew up in is that she will be living closer to her married best friends, Sunshine and Brown. She is looking forward to having them around even though she is unable to tell them why she is there. They know her mother as ‘The Fearsome’, a straight talking women with a love of Leonard Cohen, eating dinner out of jars using cocktail forks, and a penchant for chopping her own firewood.

“They knew my mother and they had known her for a long time but I hadn’t said a word to them, or to anyone, about what was happening to her, about the fact she was the reason I was even thinking about moving back. Tell no one, my mother had said, and no one had I told, not even Sunshine and Brown.”

Clara’s relationship with Tamar is full of resentment, guilt and questions and she is disheartened when she realises how quickly her mother’s memory is being destroyed by the illness.

“My mother was disappearing and I didn’t know what to do, didn’t know how to keep her with me, in this world, on this plane of existence, thinking and talking the way I had always known her to think and talk.”

Clara has always been good with words, something that Tamar has never shared with her. In her adult life Clara is an author and has written a successful book named The Old Man. She now makes her living with a business called Words of Winter in which she finds words for people when their own words fail them. She writes birthday cards for estranged siblings, wedding speeches for a best man who thinks the wedding will not last, and funeral announcements of beloved family members. When it comes to her own mother though Clara has never been able to find the words to bridge the gap between them.

As Tamar’s dementia progresses Clara finds certain changes more difficult to cope with than others, for example, when her mother sits eating at a table using plates and cutlery rather than eating from a jar. Or the first time her mother no longer recognises her.

“The day came when she looked at me and asked me how she knew me.

The minute she asked me that question I tried to banish it from my mind, tried to shoo it away, because How do I know you again? was not a question you expected ever to hear from your mother. But too late, it was already burned into my brain.”

The lack of time is the thing that hits Clara the hardest though as she realises that maybe she never really knew her that well at all.

“Facts I knew about Tamar Winter $800: 1, She graduated from Sterns High School at age seventeen and 2, Immediately tried to head South to Florida for adventure and 3, to get away from Sterns and her father and 4, the memories of her mother, who had died earlier that year, but 5, she was raped at a party in Utica and 6, got pregnant with me and my twin sister, who was 7, stillborn, so 8, it had been just me and her for all the years since and 9, it was still just me and her. Me and my mother. My mother and me.”

I loved the final paragraph of the book. In fact the book was just generally very good.

 

Our Final Rating...

Our Rating

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