Now Featured at the Patheos Book Club
The Geography of Memory
A Pilgrimage Through Alzheimer's
By Jeanne Murray Walker
What People Are Saying
"With The Geography of Memory, Jeanne Murray Walker, a master wordsmith, takes us on a journey—dare I say sacred pilgrimage—into the inner world of Alzheimer's. While Walker does not flinch from the calamities and sorrows of this journey, she also provides us with fresh glimpses into hidden joys and startling surprises along the way. I commend The Geography of Memory to you."
—Richard J. Foster, author of Celebration of Discipline and Sanctuary of the Soul
"Alzheimer's and death of a parent is a journey that others have told us about but few with such penetration and humane wisdom as Jeanne Walker's. Her story is a map of memory with mythical overtones, by which I mean that while its shape is recognizable, its details are utterly unique. I read it, mesmerized, wondering my way through this deeply moving portrait of a mother, a daughter, a family. Against expectation we are invited to join their hilarious, daunting dance: a boogie of decline whose haunting music persists."
—Luci Shaw, poet, author of The Crime of Living Cautiously and What the Light Was Like, writer in residence at Regent College
"In a kind of family alchemy, a mother's failing memory somehow excites the synapses of her daughter's. The result is a child-adult memoir of grace, poignancy, and rich compassion."
—Philip Yancey, bestselling author
"As the lively, witty, energetic character who was her mother begins to become hopelessly lost in Alzheimer's, poet Jeanne Walker readily shoulders her share of caregiving, a commitment of love requiring three-hour plane rides: disrupting the rhythms of her own life as a wife, mother, and professor, disquieting her with grief, and taxing her relationship with her beloved sister almost to the breaking point.
Yet the narrative as a whole says much more. At some point, knowing so well the story of her mother's life, Walker begins to find her crazy communications intelligible—realizing that her mother is talking in metaphors and understanding them. The farther away her mother wanders, the closer their relationship. The love between them strengthens. Trying to follow the details of her mother's life as she recalls them, now, in fragments, Walker finds to her surprise that she is not only recovering her own childhood memories but also understanding them in a new way—a set of insights ranking among the most precious of her life.
In plainsong prose evoking her heartland roots, Jeanne Walker locates the gifts to be found in the darkest days of a loved one's decline and death, a story of redemption that will inform and encourage anyone caring or expecting to care for ill and aging parents-or anyone at all."
—Peggy Anderson, author of New York Times bestsellers Nurse and Children's Hospital
"Alzheimer's is a word that strikes terror in most of us, particularly as we and our parents age. Poet Jeanne Murray Walker's memoir of her pilgrimage in her mother's illness and death doesn't gloss the difficulties, but it removes the terror. What remains is a sturdy witness to unexpected meanings and beauties and even humor that surface in lives of faith and suffering. A friend once told me 'Anything can be endured if you make a story of it.' This magnificently written story is the latest evidence."
—Eugene H. Peterson, professor Emeritus of Spiritual Theology Regent College, Vancouver B.C.
"Jeanne Murray Walker's story of a mother with Alzheimer's, like reports from other recent conflicts, is disorienting. How could it be otherwise? There are no "front lines," no clear distinctions between friends and enemies. How did this war even get started? How will it end-and what would "victory" look like? Maybe, she suggests, we need to see this disease with fresh eyes. "As I spent thousands of hours with her," Walker says of her mother, "I began to recover my own past." There's nothing syrupy about this book, but it's full of joy as well as sorrow. What a gift she has given us."
—John Wilson, editor, Books & Culture
"Jeanne Murray Walker has written one of the most elegant, tender, and intelligent memoirs of Alzheimer's I have read. At once heart-wrenching and richly rewarding, intimate and objective, coldly cutting, and full of clear-eyed promise, The Geography of Memory is a beautiful gathering of moments: an artful mosaic of shards that build to a portrait of faith and hope and love."
—Bret Lott, author of Letters and Life: On Being a Writer, On Being a Christian and Jewel