Title: Tangles – A Story about Alzheimer’s, My Mother and Me
Author: Sarah Leavitt
Publisher: Jonathan Cape, Random House UK
Genre: Graphic Novel, Memoir
I have often wondered while reading memoirs or something very personal: How do the authors manage to put all this down to paper? All the hurt, the anguish, the memory of it all, on paper for others to read. I do not know how they must feel to put it down – to go through those memories all over again, so they can tell it to the world. I am sure though it must not be easy to do that. This thought crossed my mind as I finished reading, “Tangles – A Story about Alzheimer’s, my mother and me” by Sarah Leavitt, a story of her mother’s illness and her love for her, and that is in a graphic novel format.
I had wanted to read this book since a while now, however something else kept coming in the way, pushing this one on the back burner. And when I finally did, it reminded me of someone who I had known with the disease and all the memories came rushing by. Anyway, back to the book. “Tangles” is one woman’s story about losing a parent and at the same time strangely enough, also finding a parent through Alzheimer’s. The content and context is heavy and may be that is when the book being in a graphic novel format helps.
“Tangles” is the story of Sarah and her mother and Sarah seeing her through Alzheimer’s. It covers six years of her mother’s life with the onset of the disease through her death and the emotional turmoil Sarah and her family goes through. For me it was about the disease and what it does to you as a person – at the same time what it takes from you. Fragments of memory are snatched slowly and steadily till it reaches a stage when you struggle to remember your loved ones. Sarah writes about it with a touch that makes you want to reach out to the author. The novel covers everything – the dark humour, the spark, the burst of energy and frustration, the reaction of the family, the last moments and the very angry moments as well.
To reflect on a disease through a graphic novel format is not unusual. A lot of writers have done it before. So it is only common if you tend to compare it with Fun House by Alison Bechdel or with Charles Burns’ Black Hole. The quality of illustrations is on the spot, making it seem real enough, which for me was very important while reading the book. The connect of the reader will but obviously be very high, given the nature of the book and yet at times the reader will forget that it is a memoir and Sarah’s mother went through it all. “Tangles” at the same time celebrates life – for what it is, for what it was and how it will be. The story is honest. It is raw. It is also quite tender. A story of a mother, her disease and her daughter.