On the Same Page - Remember Me
Published on 8/5/2023
This is the sixth in a series of book reviews from Kristen Phillips. Reading about other people’s experiences helped Kristen emotionally and practically around her father’s illness. Her hope is that these reviews will raise awareness of the ever-increasing number of books (fiction and non-fiction) available to support and educate those of us affected by dementia.
(Allen & Unwin, 2022)
418 pages (large print version)
This is a mystery novel where one of the main characters, Felix, has dementia. His daughter, Emily, returns to Aotearoa New Zealand from the UK to visit and then agrees to stay with him at the family home in an isolated rural setting. An unsolved question hangs over the community: what happened to the young and talented Doctor Leah Parata, twenty-five years ago? She disappeared without trace on a tramping trip in the Ruahine Range. Leah’s body has never been found. Emily was the last person to see her before she disappeared.
Who would find this book helpful?
Remember Me is a page-turner. I found myself thinking that nearly every character could potentially have been involved in Leah Parata’s disappearance. So, if you like mysteries that include a love story, and like reading to take a break from work or caring responsibilities, this book is for you.
As dementia is being written about more and more it’s important that characters are portrayed realistically in fiction. I thought Felix, with his ‘masking’ behaviour, sudden directness and unpredictable moods, was an accurate depiction of someone with dementia.
When talking about Remember Me at the JourneyWoman Book Club (5, April ’23), Charity Norman comments that there is far more to the person with dementia than meets the eye; this insight is based on her experience with her mother and is what she brings to the character of Felix. This was also my experience with my dad.
I liked how the Ruahine Range was one of the main characters in the book, with all its different ‘moods’. Charity Norman currently lives in sight of the Ruahine Range and has spoken about what a strong daily presence it is.
Emily’s ambivalence about caring for Felix, and her tiredness as the months progressed is a very accurate picture of the emotional and physical demands of caring for someone with dementia. It can be helpful to identify with a character in a book and I’m sure many carers would identify with Emily.
Kristen’s first book, Dad, You’ve Got Dementia: Conversations with my Father is due from the Cuba Press in July 2023.
She grew up in Te Awa Kairangi / Lower Hutt. She went travelling ‘for a year’ and returned to Aotearoa after thirty years based in London. Her father, Don, was diagnosed with dementia in 2016 after showing signs of dementia from 2011. He died in 2019. She currently lives in Te Whanganui-a-Tara with her partner, the writer Mia Farlane. Kristen works part-time for Dementia Wellington and Dementia New Zealand.