Sunday, November 6, 2016

And Every Morning the Way Home Gets Longer and Longer

Title:  And Every Morning the Way Home Gets Longer and Longer
Author:  Fredrik Backman
Publication Information:  Atria Books. 2016. 96 pages.
ISBN:  1501160486 / 978-1501160486

Book Source:  I received this book as a publisher's galley through NetGalley free of cost in exchange for an honest review.

Opening Sentence:  "There's a hospital room at the end of a life where someone, right in the middle of a floor, has pitched a green tent."

Favorite Quote:  "Our brains are the most boundless equation, and once humanity solves it it'll be more powerful than when we went to the moon. There's no greater mystery in the universe than a human."

I cried. I knew what this novella was about. I prepared myself. Yet, I cried. I smiled through the tears too, but mostly I cried.

The story begins with an author's note that this story is personal; it's about the author dealing with losing someone while they are still here and about explaining that to children. That is heartbreak so many know about, and, for those who don't, I hope you never do.

Many books have addressed this topic with strength and compassion. Everything Love Is tackles the issue of dementia from the perspective of a loved one in a powerful fictional story. Before I Forget is a nonfiction account of a couple dealing with early onset Alzheimer's; it tells a personal story of grief and hope and provides guides for others dealing with this devastating diagnosis. This book is the story of the one being lost to dementia. Grandpa's "way home gets longer and longer." In fact, by the end of the book, the reader realizes how long that distance truly has become.

Grandpa, Grandma, Ted, and NoahNoah (as Grandpa calls him) are the story. Grandpa is the one losing his way. He knows it, and he is trying to help his grandson understand. His memories of times long gone with Grandma sustain him on this journey. For Grandpa, the memories of his son Ted and his grandson Noah blend together.

For Ted and Noah, the journey encompasses so many different facets as caregivers and as helpless bystanders. They must keep Grandpa physically safe; they must keep him emotionally safe. The book begins with, "Don't be scared." Once it was the adults abating a child's fear; now, the child guides the adult. For themselves, Ted and Noah must learn the lesson of letting go and of losing someone who is still here. For Noah, there is the innocence of childhood and unconditional love; for Ted, there is the frustration of being helpless.

The beautiful imagery of the book portrays this story in a memorable way. Grandpa and NoahNoah are in a town square. Every day, the town square shrinks. Everyday, more roads leading away from it appear broken and impassable. At the same time, beauty abounds. Flowers bloom, and Grandma comes to hold Grandpa's hand. No matter how the square shrinks, Grandpa and Noah's bench remains at its center.

In a place of loss and grief, hope also finds a place. Grandpa and Noah play games and tell jokes. Grandpa still teaches Noah lessons about life - fishing, the digits of pi, and the workings of the human brain. Numbers and math provide a grounding where so much seems nebulous. Laughter finds its way through the tears.

This short book is moving, sad, emotional, so many things, and now a favorite. As with Britt-Marie Was Here, the book manages in its simplicity to completely involve me in the story. I can picture the characters and the square. I can feel the anguish and still find a smile, both brought about by the love captured in this book. Such is the depth of Fredrick Backman's writing. My explanation does not do this short book justice. This is one to be experienced and then remembered for a very long time.

Please share your thoughts and leave a comment. I would love to "talk" to you.

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