Book review: The Year My Family Unravelled

By Mia Farlane. Published on 1/12/2023

Reading about other people’s experiences helped me emotionally and practically around my dad’s condition. My hope is that these reviews will raise awareness of the ever-increasing number of books (fiction and nonfiction) available to support and educate those of us affected by dementia.

If there are any books you would like reviewed, please send me the titles.

This review of The Year My Family Unravelled has been written by a guest reviewer, my partner, the writer Mia Farlane. My own book Dad, You’ve Got Dementia was published in July so I have not had time in the second half of the year to write reviews; I will be getting back to regular reviews in 2024.

- Kristen Phillips


The Year My Family Unravelled

(Affirm Press, 2023)

by Cynthia Dearborn 314 pages


‘For this is what I’ve learned from Dad’s dementia: live in the now, revel in the now, return yourself to it always. And this is what I’ve learned from his new companions: what nourishes us like nothing else is being present in the presence of others. Breaking bread in kind company. Exactly this.’

(Cynthia Dearborn’s The Year My Family Unravelled, page 260)



Cynthia Dearborn’s The Year My Family Unravelled (Affirm Press, 2023) is a memoir about a daughter, who struggles to convince her father, who has vascular dementia, to move into an aged care facility; Cynthia lives in Australia and her father is in Seattle, so she takes leave from her job (and girlfriend) and goes to stay in Seattle for however long this will take.

Who would find this book helpful?

The Year My Family Unravelled is a real example of what can happen (family disputes, a court case) if you don’t have an EPOA (in relation to personal care and welfare) in place.

This memoir would be helpful for anyone who is (or is going to be) caring for an older parent, particularly if the parent has dementia. The last section of the book shows how it is possible to connect with someone who has dementia, through their special interests (cf. Contented Dementia’s Specal Method), in this case, poetry. It also shows the importance of self-care for the carer.

My reflections

I found The Year My Family Unravelled utterly engaging, from start to finish: the author’s emotional intelligence, her life-saving sense of humour (quietly hilarious, at the most serious of times), the scrupulous honesty (reassuring), the craft behind the storytelling (the tension), the beautifully structured paragraphs that read like prose poetry (those frameable last lines), and the brilliant dialogue (relatable and, in places, laugh-out-loud funny).

I was moved to tears, unavoidably. I love the gratitude the author expresses – carers and Dementia Australia figure there, along with her wife, the poet Tricia Dearborn.

The Year My Family Unravelled reminds me of my partner Kristen Phillips’ memoir Dad, You’ve Got Dementia (The Cuba Press, 2023) – of course: both are memoirs by a daughter about her father with dementia; but also, both books are described as ‘lyrical’ (both authors are also poets), and both offer hope.


Mia Farlane’s novel, Footnotes to Sex (Viking/Penguin Books UK), a tragicomedy about academic unfulfillment and a flailing relationship, was described by Bidisha as ‘Seinfeld meets Dorothy Parker’. Mia is a translator/contributor in No, Love Is Not Dead (Chambers 2021). Her story 'Like-Minded People' won the Scottish Mental Health Arts Festival 2022 (fiction) competition. She has an MA Writing from Middlesex University, and has belonged to a small London-based writing group since 2003. Author website:

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