The Last of His Mind, Second Edition
A Year in the Shadow of Alzheimer’s
Imprint: Swallow Press
264 Pages, 5.25 x 8.25 in
- Published: September 2021
- Published: September 2021
The second, expanded edition of this acclaimed memoir by an Alzheimer’s caregiver living with his father during his final year includes a new introduction that illustrates the immense toll of the disease, important lessons from the author’s experience, and a readers' guide.
Joe Thorndike was managing editor of Life at the height of its popularity immediately following World War II. He was the founder of American Heritage and Horizon magazines, the author of three books, and the editor of a dozen more. But at age ninety-two, in the space of six months he stopped reading or writing or carrying on detailed conversations. He could no longer tell time or make a phone call. He was convinced that the governor of Massachusetts had come to visit and was in the refrigerator.
Over six million Americans suffer from Alzheimer’s, and like many of them, Joe Thorndike’s one great desire was to remain in his own house. To honor his wish, his son John left his own home and moved into his father’s upstairs bedroom on Cape Cod. For a year, in a house filled with file cabinets, photos, and letters, John explored his father’s mind, his parents’ divorce, and his mother’s secrets. The Last of His Mind is the bittersweet account of a son’s final year with his father and a candid portrait of an implacable disease.
It’s the ordeal of Alzheimer’s that draws father and son close, closer than they have been since John was a boy. At the end, when Joe’s heart stops beating, John’s hand is on his chest, and a story of painful decline has become a portrait of deep family ties, caregiving, and love.
“A brave, moving story of a son’s devotion to his dying father…. Thorndike’s prose is serenely beautiful and his patience in caring for an Alzheimer’s patient is extremely admirable. An affecting work of emotional honesty and forgiveness.” — Kirkus Reviews
“The first few pages of The Last of His Mind are dynamite, in their quiet way. They open up a world that, if you've known it and lived in it, conks you on the head, bashes your memory, brings it all back in a rush… This memoir is far too elegantly written to ever state it directly, but the reader is made aware of the high honor involved: The author honors his father in the most profound way and is blessed, in turn, by participating in the most taxing event in his father’s life.” — Washington Post
“A beautiful book, this memoir reveals the painful chaos of Alzheimer’s, as well as the strength, faith and unexpected joys that come with caring for a loved one in his last days.” — Publishers Weekly
"John Thorndike’s memoir is a wonderfully detailed episodic account of his father’s ordeal with Alzheimer’s … an honest and powerful portrayal of the effects of the combination of old age and Alzheimer’s disease and the love between a son and his father.” — Foreword Reviews