Hard to Forget: An Alzheimer's Story

Charles P. Pierce, Author Random House (NY) $25 (256p) ISBN 978-0-679-45291-1
One day Pierce's father, John, left his home in Massachusetts on an errand. He wound up three days later in a Vermont jail. The police assumed from his confused state that he was intoxicated. In actuality, he was suffering from Alzheimer's disease--a fact that both Pierce (a writer-at-large for Esquire and a regular contributor to National Public Radio) and his mother long refused to acknowledge: ""I felt the truth bending inside me, turning the last three mad days into some familiar shape, and I realized what I was feeling was the comfort of denial."" Pierce makes a notable contribution to the growing literature on this affliction by combining a family memoir with an overview of Alzheimer's history since its discovery in 1906 by Alois Alzheimer and of the state of current research into the genetic causes of the disease. Among the scientists whose work Pierce covers are Allen Roses and Peter Hyslop, whom he labels the ""Genome Cowboys"" and who, Pierce claims, failed to receive due credit for their discovery of an early-onset gene because of rivalry in the scientific community. The author poignantly describes how he detached himself emotionally from his father's worsening condition and how this detachment affected his wife, Margaret, and children. Margaret was the sole family member who accepted her father-in-law's disease and tried to combat her mother-in-law's consistent denial. Pierce himself is at great risk for Alzheimer's--in addition to his father, three uncles died of the disease--but, as yet, he admits, he has not been tested. He has, however, overcome his resistance to the truth and in so doing has crafted this excellent memoir. Author tour. (Apr.)
Reviewed on: 04/03/2000
Release date: 04/01/2000
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