Remember Remember by Hazel McHaffie

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Remember Remember by Hazel McHaffie

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Category: General Fiction
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Louise Laurie
Reviewed by Louise Laurie
Summary: A bitter-sweet and poignant novel about the matriarch of a family gradually losing her memory - and sense of self - to dementia. It's also about how the different members of the family cope with this 'living' death.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 288 Date: March 2010
Publisher: Luath Press Ltd
ISBN: 978-1906817299

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The story starts at the end and works back in time. This works extremely well as we see Doris Mannering, mother, grandmother and great-grandmother now living in a residential home. The decision to 'put mother' into a home was very, very difficult and had been put off time and time again. We come to realize that this was a heart-wrenching decision. The daughter and carer, Jessica, will always be asking herself if she'd done the right thing, made the right decision for the right reasons. A veritable minefield. And here is where many an ethical dilemma lies for many families in real-life similar situations.

The residential home in this novel is run well. The vulnerable and elderly residents enjoy (even if some of them are not aware of) comfortable rooms and good food. But in real life this isn't always the case sadly. Straight away the reader sees that Doris is a feisty character. She has her recurring questions posed to almost everyone she meets and of course, due to her illness, promptly both forgets the answer and the fact that she's asked it in the first place, so she asks again and again ... It's all very sad, especially for the family.

McHaffie's background is such that she touches upon what could easily be real-life issues. The fictional family home is up for sale. Residential fees for mother's round the clock care cost an arm and a leg. This is yet another big issue for the fictional family - and for those in real-life situations. There's lots of family conversations and discussions which flow and work beautifully in this novel. In particular, there's some lovely lines when Doris is talking with say, one of her grandsons or one of her grand-daughters. She doesn't recognize them now but sometimes, just sometimes, on one of her good days there's perhaps a nano-second of the old Doris, then it's gone almost at once.

Jessica, a grandmother herself and getting on a bit, appears an absolute saint of a daughter. We are given many episodes where mother has tried the patience of Saint Jessica. Doris can throw a mean punch, undress in most inappropriate places etc. Jessica nevertheless is really at her wit's end. That's when putting mother in a nice home was the final straw. And when a particularly nasty and unwelcome skeleton comes clattering out of the family closet, Jessica is a saint, twice over. Lovely stuff.

And as we are taken back in time we meet up with Doris in happier times. We are taken back by degrees and we see that she is clever. She's able to fool everyone and cover up her odd 'confusion' moments. But it all unravels in the end. The ensuing conversation or to use its correct term 'assessment' between Doris and her doctor, is both funny and moving at the same time. The thread throughout is the family home which holds lots of memories for everyone. And as Jessica gets it ready for selling, there's great big chunks of narrative as she shares her memories with the reader.

I'm sure many readers will identify with aspects of this poignant story. A key theme being Jessica tossing and turning over decisions and a love-hate relationship with her mother. Both are exhausted but for very different reasons. A telling aspect in all of this is that Doris will have no recollection of the heartache all this is causing. Could we honestly say that here, ignorance is bliss?

And McHaffie takes us back, by time periods, to Doris's earlier life. When she was well. The contrast between then and now is written very well. It is extremely moving and touching. This novel, I'm sure, will resonate deeply with family members and carers trying to cope with this most distressing condition. Recommended.

I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to The Bookbag.

If this book appeals then we can also recommend Have the Men Had Enough? by Margaret Forster.

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Buy Remember Remember by Hazel McHaffie at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Remember Remember by Hazel McHaffie at

You can read more about Hazel McHaffie here.


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