Tuesday, 15 May 2018

Song for Rosaleen by Pip Desmond

Losing and finding a mother in Dementia

A beautifully crafted memoir of a family coping with their mother's dementia, Song for Rosaleen is both a celebration of Rosaleen Desmond's life and an unflinching account of the practical and ethical dilemmas that faced her six children.

While the story is intensely personal, the impending global dementia epidemic gives it universal interest.

When Rosaleen Desmond first showed signs of losing her memory, she was in her early seventies, living alone. The author gives a courageous account of the practical and ethical dilemmas that faced the family as they struggled to get a diagnosis and support their mother during her illness. The voices of Rosaleen's five other children echo throughout the narrative as emails and remembered conversations.

As well as exploring illness, ageing and aged care, Song for Rosaleen reflects on the complexity of family dynamics, the perils of writing about real people, and the slippery nature of truth.

Dementia robbed Rosaleen of her memory and independence but it could not destroy her spirit. The book is ultimately a celebration of an unsung life typical of many women of her generation. Told with love, insight, humour and compassion, Song for Rosaleen raises important questions about who we become when our memories fail, how our rapidly ageing population can best be cared for, and what this means for us all.

I listened to the author speak at the Hastings book launch recently and she lamented on the fact that her mother, a very private woman, quite probably wouldn't have wanted her personal business publicised for all to read. What a brave decision Pip Desmond made to write it. How brave to raise the idea with her siblings and other family members knowing not all would approve or understand. It's a story that deserves to be told.

Any of us who have had to care for aging loved ones will empathize with this touching story and perhaps even recognise similarities to their own experiences. I hope others find strength and solace in the sharing of this journey.

Reviewed by Carla Crosbie

Catalogue link: Song for Rosaleen

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