The back-cover of Freda Harrison’s memoir says the book aims to enlighten readers about dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, and a few pages near the end offer helpful information. But for the most part, this is an example of humans treating each other poorly.
The players are the author, a licensed practical nurse; her mother, who was slipping into Alzheimer’s and died a few years ago; her six brothers and sisters; and God. For the most part, Love Kept Hope Alive chronicles how the family mouthed platitudes about loving each other and God yet acted in a way that led to harsh words, backbiting and legal action.
The family dynamics were odd from the get-go. Dad returned to their Kentucky home from WWII, confused and abusive. He finally hanged himself in a VA hospital. Harrison remembers feeling uncared for at specific times in her childhood, although we’re told her mother spent her life caring for others.
As the mom got sicker, the family made only half-hearted efforts to care for her, writes the author, who lived out of state. When Harrison returned home, she saw alarming signs that the family left the mother unbathed and unfed, wearing the same clothes day after day. Sometimes, the author came to see her mother and tried to help; other times, she “gave it to God.” At one point, the family received a restraining order against the author and told her not to interfere.
Who can know the truth of a situation like this? The book appears to be an effort by the author to clear her name and blame others. The conflicting emotions make Love Kept Hope Alive difficult to read, and the story isn’t helped by poor grammar, lack of transitions, huge gaps of missing history and typos. There’s no sense of place or personalities, only a litany of sad accusations.
As a result, this memoir is likely to have limited appeal for a general audience.
Also available in hardcover and ebook.