My Father’s Brain: Life in the Shadow of Alzheimer’s by Sandeep Jauhar
New York. Farrar, Straus and Giroux. 2023. 258 pages.
“New Experiences slipped through his fingers like grains of sand, never to be touched again.”
My Father’s Brain: Life in the Shadow of Alzheimer’s is the poignant tale of a family devastated by an Alzheimer’s diagnosis. The flaws, celebrations, and challenges of its impact are exposed. Sandeep Jauhar’s memoir is moving, emotional, and so challenging at times that I was forced to take breaks before continuing. Jauhar sincerely and personally details the transformation of his father’s and his family’s life after the diagnosis, detailing the messy realities of such a diagnosis and what it entails for a family. He shares his father’s story as so much more than merely a life altered by the disease process, instead celebrating the beauty of his father’s humanity, persistence as an immigrant, and his dedication to research, service, and his family.
As a practicing physician, Jauhar shares with us the history of the disease, the science behind its progression, the current neurological aging research, and the epidemiology of Alzheimer’s in an engaging manner. As he details even the cognitive ability tests at the neurologist’s office, he patiently explains to the reader in medical and nonmedical terminology to balance both the emotional aspects of a doctor’s visit as well as the scientific aims of each exercise. He presents his experience in a way to allow readers to attempt to absorb as much information as possible about the case while getting to know a patient and their family closely and balancing the emotions that stem from being surrounded by both the great joys of healing and the devastating sufferings of medical disease.
This was a difficult but engaging, educational, and inspiring book. Some chapters were challenging to get through, as the horrors of the diagnosis’s progression are revealed in such a personal and emotional manner. Jauhar does a remarkable job of making each character human—exposing each gift and struggle of his family members. He never blames when sharing the most intimate arguments of his family through such a traumatic time, instead shifting the focus to the reality of human emotions, bioethical concerns, familial relations, and cultural expectations regarding healing. The story is impactful, personal even, as Jauhar transports us into his world and that of his father. Jauhar captures the precise power of medical literature to offer understanding of medicine as both an art and a science.
This moving book instills empathy, understanding, and curiosity in its reader, and I could not recommend it more. For insight, compassion, and understanding, My Father’s Brain: Life in the Shadow of Alzheimer’s impacts the reader, captures an incredible man’s story beautifully and powerfully, and weaves a unique tale of a family that, in the midst of such a devastating diagnosis, chose to create lasting memories with their father, work together to preserve quality of life, and love one another throughout.
“When there is love, it will continue.”
University of Oklahoma