Wednesday, 27 April 2016

Where The Light Gets In: Losing My Mother Only to Find her Again

Author: Kimberly Williams-Paisley
Genre: Non-Fiction
Type: Hardcover
Pages: 272
Source: Local Public Library
Publisher: Crown Archetype
First Published: April 5, 2016
First Line: "Disease, by definition, alights on an individual."

Book Description from GoodReads: Many know Kimberly Williams-Paisley as the bride in the popular Steve Martin remakes of the Father of the Bride movies, the calculating Peggy Kenter on Nashville, or the wife of country music artist, Brad Paisley. But behind the scenes, Kim was dealing with a tragic secret: her mother, Linda, was suffering from a rare form of dementia that slowly crippled her ability to talk, write and eventually recognize people in her own family.
Where the Light Gets In tells the full story of Linda’s illness—called primary progressive aphasia—from her early-onset diagnosis at the age of 62 through the present day. Kim draws a candid picture of the ways her family reacted for better and worse, and how she, her father and two siblings educated themselves, tried to let go of shame and secrecy, made mistakes, and found unexpected humor and grace in the midst of suffering.
Ultimately the bonds of family were strengthened, and Kim learned ways to love and accept the woman her mother became. With a moving foreword by actor and advocate Michael J. Fox, Where the Light Gets In is a heartwarming tribute to the often fragile yet unbreakable relationships we have with our mothers.

My Rating: 4/5 stars

My Review: Anyone who has had a family member suffer the effects of dementia or Alzheimer's knows what an all-encompassing and devastating disease they are and how they can affect not only the person afflicted with the disease but their loved ones as well.
As someone who has lost both grandmothers to Alzheimer's I know that it's a very hard and emotional road.

In this book Williams-Paisley brings her readers into her personal life and her mother's struggles with PPA (Primary Progressive Aphasia) - a rare form of dementia. You immediately get the feel that Williams-Paisley is a down-to-earth person who brings her readers into very personal moments in her life - especially her sometimes strained yet resilient relationship with her mother.  Williams-Paisley's writing is relatable and approachable which enabled me to easily empathize with some of her struggles. You quickly forget that she's on TV, in movies and married to a famous country singer.  In the end she's just a woman struggling to hold onto her mother while juggling commitments to her father, siblings, work and her own young family.

If I could give one criticism it would be that I wish Kim's mother and father were able to share their thoughts about the disease and how it changed their lives and relationship.  I realize that, at the time of Williams-Paisley was writing the book her mother may not have been able to share her experiences, but getting a glimpse into her own personal feelings would have been a great addition.  Her father, Gurney's denial of Linda's illness and her need for more care (and his need for more help) was very hard to read but his unquestionable love and respect for his wife was always clear to readers.  I have the utmost of respect for Williams-Paisley and her siblings for not allowing Linda's PPA totally overshadow their father's future happiness.  It would have been a very hard thing to experience for these siblings but in the end shows yet another struggle that some spouses and children of dementia patients must face.

If I could give two words to describe this book they would be: emotional and candid.  I appreciated that Williams-Paisley never sugar coats anything.  She's honest about her feelings, actions, struggles and her relationship with her mother before and after the diagnosis. Williams-Paisley shows how her thought processes and feelings changed once she started to look at not what her mother and the rest of the family were losing but instead focus on all the things they could still enjoy and gain from each other.  It's a simple shift in thinking yet sometimes quite a difficult transition to make.  Once they were able to experience that revelation was the Williams' family able to finally let the 'light get in' and take all they could from each experience with Linda.

Note: A touching foreword by Michael J Fox - fellow actor and health advocate - is the icing on the cake for this read.


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