THE STORY OF MY FATHER: A Memoir
Release date: 03/01/2003
Miller's first nonfiction book (after While I Was Gone; The World Below; etc.), about caring for her Alzheimer's-afflicted father, is a rare example of an illness memoir with widespread appeal. Prospective readers need not have any interest in Alzheimer's; they need only have parents of their own to appreciate this testimony's dignity and grace. Miller's father, James Nichols, started showing signs of dementia in 1986, when he was picked up by the police after ringing a stranger's doorbell in the middle of the night, announcing he was lost. Miller's careful recounting of James's slow demise and progression through the various stages of an assisted living community are punctuated by pleasant memories and even humor, e.g., when James, a retired religious scholar, assesses his surroundings and comments, "No one ever seems to graduate from here." As she recalls childhood stories and family memories, Miller simultaneously offers a memoir of her own development as a writer. "[T]his is the hardest lesson... for a caregiver: you can never do enough to make a difference in the course of the disease," Miller writes. "We always find ourselves deficient in devotion.... Did you visit once a week? you might have visited twice. Oh, you visited daily? but perhaps he would have done better if you'd kept him at home. In the end all those judgments, those self-judgments, are pointless. This disease is inexorable, cruel. It scoffs at everything." 11 photos. BOMC alternate. (Mar. 19)
Forecast:Miller's popularity among women readers of literary works—many whom are probably dealing with aging parents themselves—could shoot this one onto bestseller lists, and Knopf shouldn't have trouble selling out its 75,000 first printing.