Thursday, May 28, 2015

Book Review: "The Day We Met" by Rowan Coleman

So if you're averse to getting all choked up when reading a novel, even perhaps crying your eyes out at least a little bit, this is not a book for you. But it's one you shouldn't miss.

Claire has always been a free spirit, practically from the day she was born. She raised her older daughter Caitlin practically on her own, excelled in her career, and never expected to find love until Greg, a contractor, came to do some work on her house. But she was utterly smitten, and it wasn't long before the two had a child of their own, outspoken, three-year-old Esther.

It seemed the perfect life, at least until Claire was diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer's Disease. And while at first Claire felt things slipping away gradually, her decline becomes more rapid than anyone expected. Suddenly her mother has moved in to help care for Claire, she's not allowed to leave the house on her own or do much of anything she wants to, and much to everyone's chagrin, she doesn't feel comfortable around Greg anymore, even though she knows she is supposed to love him and that they had built a life together.

As Claire's condition further deteriorates, she discovers that 20-year-old Caitlin has secrets of her own, although they are no match for Claire's own secret involving Caitlin. And when Claire has a chance meeting with a handsome man in a café, it causes her to experience feelings she didn't think she ever would again, feelings she wants to hold onto as long as she can.

The Day We Met is a tremendously poignant and moving account of one woman's fight to hold on to her life and her memories as long as she can, and her struggles not to disappoint those around her. It's also the story of how her illness affects those she holds most dear, the wounds her condition causes, and how you can continue to be courageous in the face of bleakness. But more than that, this is a beautiful story of love, both between people and simply the need to find and hold on to it as long as you can.

While comparisons to Lisa Genova's Still Alice are certainly inevitable, and both books left me an emotional mess, what sets the two books apart is this is a more purely emotional account, without the clinical aspects of Genova's book. Claire is a much less passive character than Alice was further into her diagnosis. And I felt this book was much more willing to paint Claire as not entirely sympathetic—even though her condition was causing her to act a certain way, you didn't need to like everything she said or did.

Rowan Coleman has written a book to savor and think about, and one to cherish, as it is as lovely as it is sad.

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