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Strange Relation: A Memoir of Marriage, Dementia, and Poetry

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"[A] thoughtful and lucid tale of love, companionship, and heartbreaking illness." —Lydia Davis In 2004 Rachel Hadas's husband, George Edwards, a composer and professor of music at Columbia University, was diagnosed with early-onset dementia at the age of sixty-one. Strange Relation is her account of "losing" George. Her narrative begins when George's illness can no longer "[A] thoughtful and lucid tale of love, companionship, and heartbreaking illness." —Lydia Davis In 2004 Rachel Hadas's husband, George Edwards, a composer and professor of music at Columbia University, was diagnosed with early-onset dementia at the age of sixty-one. Strange Relation is her account of "losing" George. Her narrative begins when George's illness can no longer be ignored, and ends in 2008 soon after his move to a dementia facility (when, after thirty years of marriage, she finds herself no longer living with her husband). Within the cloudy confines of those difficult years, years when reading and writing were an essential part of what kept her going, she "tried to keep track… tried to tell the truth." "A piercingly honest account of life with a brilliant man as he descends into dementia." —Reeve Lindbergh "If only all doctors and nurses and social workers who care for the chronically ill could read this book. If only patients and family members stricken with such losses could receive what this book can give them." —Rita Charon, MD, PhD, Program in Narrative Medicine, Columbia University "Like an elegy, Strange Relation is about loss and grief. Like all elegies, it also memorializes and celebrates." —Robert Pinsky "Strange Relation snaps with bravery, intelligence, and Hadas's tart, candid wisdom." —Molly Peacock Rachel Hadas is Board of Governors Professor of English at Rutgers University in Newark. She is the author of many books, including The River of Forgetfulness, Laws, Indelible, and Halfway Down the Hall: New & Selected Poems. She co-edited the anthology The Greek Poets: Homer to the Present.


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"[A] thoughtful and lucid tale of love, companionship, and heartbreaking illness." —Lydia Davis In 2004 Rachel Hadas's husband, George Edwards, a composer and professor of music at Columbia University, was diagnosed with early-onset dementia at the age of sixty-one. Strange Relation is her account of "losing" George. Her narrative begins when George's illness can no longer "[A] thoughtful and lucid tale of love, companionship, and heartbreaking illness." —Lydia Davis In 2004 Rachel Hadas's husband, George Edwards, a composer and professor of music at Columbia University, was diagnosed with early-onset dementia at the age of sixty-one. Strange Relation is her account of "losing" George. Her narrative begins when George's illness can no longer be ignored, and ends in 2008 soon after his move to a dementia facility (when, after thirty years of marriage, she finds herself no longer living with her husband). Within the cloudy confines of those difficult years, years when reading and writing were an essential part of what kept her going, she "tried to keep track… tried to tell the truth." "A piercingly honest account of life with a brilliant man as he descends into dementia." —Reeve Lindbergh "If only all doctors and nurses and social workers who care for the chronically ill could read this book. If only patients and family members stricken with such losses could receive what this book can give them." —Rita Charon, MD, PhD, Program in Narrative Medicine, Columbia University "Like an elegy, Strange Relation is about loss and grief. Like all elegies, it also memorializes and celebrates." —Robert Pinsky "Strange Relation snaps with bravery, intelligence, and Hadas's tart, candid wisdom." —Molly Peacock Rachel Hadas is Board of Governors Professor of English at Rutgers University in Newark. She is the author of many books, including The River of Forgetfulness, Laws, Indelible, and Halfway Down the Hall: New & Selected Poems. She co-edited the anthology The Greek Poets: Homer to the Present.

30 review for Strange Relation: A Memoir of Marriage, Dementia, and Poetry

  1. 5 out of 5

    Tim

    Strange Relation is a compelling memoir by my friend, the poet Rachel Hadas of Rutgers, in which she describes the progression of her husband George's early-onset dementia and the ways in which she coped through literature and writing. It's powerful and uplifting, despite the trials she and her son have undergone. For me, as a husband and English teacher, the book took me to two places: 1) as a husband, I began to examine my own behavior to see how many "walls" I have erected that isolate me fro Strange Relation is a compelling memoir by my friend, the poet Rachel Hadas of Rutgers, in which she describes the progression of her husband George's early-onset dementia and the ways in which she coped through literature and writing. It's powerful and uplifting, despite the trials she and her son have undergone. For me, as a husband and English teacher, the book took me to two places: 1) as a husband, I began to examine my own behavior to see how many "walls" I have erected that isolate me from my wife and community (George's walls were a product of diesease, mine of self-absorption); 2) as an English teacher, I am rethinking the uses of poetry reading and writing as a therapeutic act, since Rachel's responses as a reader and writer so fully empowered her as she faced the dark diagnosis. I do not think that I have given enough thought to the regenerative power of literature, and also to the value of its creation, even (I am sad to admit) as I have taught, studied, and written. In this sense, Rachel's voice has made my value and appreciate the work that I am honored to do as a teacher. While this memoir might be seen as a "self-help" book for those who have relatives with dementia (and Lauren and I are in this situation with her mother right now), it is also a transcendent work about the power of literature to help us cope, understand, and respond to the vicissitudes of life. I recommend it to everyone. Tim

  2. 4 out of 5

    Lori L (She Treads Softly)

    Strange Relation by Rachel Hadas is a memoir in which Hadas shares how she managed to cope with the progression of her husband's dementia. It is an honest, achingly personal account of how she turned to literature and poetry, her most faithful companions, to help her endure her husband's deteriorating condition and the deepening silence. This is not a book full of facts on how to handle your spouse's diagnoses with dementia. It is the deeply personal account of how one woman tried to keep hersel Strange Relation by Rachel Hadas is a memoir in which Hadas shares how she managed to cope with the progression of her husband's dementia. It is an honest, achingly personal account of how she turned to literature and poetry, her most faithful companions, to help her endure her husband's deteriorating condition and the deepening silence. This is not a book full of facts on how to handle your spouse's diagnoses with dementia. It is the deeply personal account of how one woman tried to keep herself on track and tried to tell the truth about what she was feeling and experiencing. Strange Relation is a memoir for those of you who love literature and poetry and know it can sustain you through personal trials. This is the book you would write if you carefully recording unexpected insights and deeper meanings in what you were reading while experiencing a major life crisis. Rachel Hadas also clearly shows the therapeutic benefits of your own writing and self expression. It is a book penned by a true writer - a true writer coping with a great loss. I think many readers will note a poignant passage or gain new insight while reading, however, the really careful, poetic readers are those who can record how these new insights helped them live amid their stress, inner turmoil, and insidious silence. Rachel Hadas is one of gifted souls among us who stayed in touch with her feelings and managed to express them. While I greatly appreciated Rachel Hadas' memoir, I must point out that those who don't necessarily enjoy poetry might not be quite as enamored of it as I am. The reflections really are very much literature/poetry based. But, on the other hand, if given a chance it could also be a great comfort to others going through similar circumstances. Very Highly Recommended; http://shetreadssoftly.blogspot.com/

  3. 4 out of 5

    Wyma

    One thing about reading on a Kindle, you can't easily see how far along you are in a book. This is one of those books you cherish, want to look up words and poems mentioned and/or cited, and yet even though time stops as you read it, you'd still like to know you're what - a third of the way along? I bought it on the Kindle because I did not think the local libraries would buy it, although I may ask them to. Jesse Kornbluth says in effect that this is not just another wife's telling of losing her One thing about reading on a Kindle, you can't easily see how far along you are in a book. This is one of those books you cherish, want to look up words and poems mentioned and/or cited, and yet even though time stops as you read it, you'd still like to know you're what - a third of the way along? I bought it on the Kindle because I did not think the local libraries would buy it, although I may ask them to. Jesse Kornbluth says in effect that this is not just another wife's telling of losing her husband to dementia, this is a poet's book. And that is what makes it special. Long a writer of poetry and teacher of poetry, Hadas turns to poetry to help her through this time. And she shares all the poetry with us, the metaphors and similes, allusions, and why these forms of expression are useful is explored. She also shows us herself as she cares for her husband as his dementia progresses. At first bewildered, later exhausted, and finally matching his vulnerability with her own. To watch a loved one die from a disease must be so painful; to watch him fade away while still healthy at least as bad, perhaps worse. It is the one thing she stresses over and over: how elegant and well he looks, and how little of him is really there. This is a haunting book; you see much too much of someone's life given it's someone you've never met. It requires the reader to empathize without getting to ever sympathize, or ever having to.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Ingrid Lola

    This book moved me deeply, partly because my grandmother also has a similar form of dementia which has been difficult emotionally for me to deal with. The fact that Hadas includes so many thoughts about writing and literature makes this memoir unique and memorable. I absolutely loved this book and recommend it wholeheartedly to anyone else who has found that literature and reading have become an inexplicable part of their personal life. Full review here: http://thebluebookcase.blogspot.com/2... This book moved me deeply, partly because my grandmother also has a similar form of dementia which has been difficult emotionally for me to deal with. The fact that Hadas includes so many thoughts about writing and literature makes this memoir unique and memorable. I absolutely loved this book and recommend it wholeheartedly to anyone else who has found that literature and reading have become an inexplicable part of their personal life. Full review here: http://thebluebookcase.blogspot.com/2...

  5. 5 out of 5

    Gail

    Depressing, realistic, excellent, but not for the faint of heart. Highly recommended.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Catherine

    A professor of literature processes her experiences with her husband who has frontotemporal degeneration through poetry and the classics.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Joanne Kelly

    I have now read a handful of memoirs by women who are caring for husbands with neurodegenerative diseases. Hadas' tale is well written, and if you are a poetry aficionado, you will probably love it. However, I was put off by her self absorption. While I understand her anguish, she seems almost angry at her husband for much of the book. Signs of empathy and caring were few and far between. For this reason, I liked "Dignifying Dementia" and "Relentless Goodbye" much better. Second reading, May 2020 I have now read a handful of memoirs by women who are caring for husbands with neurodegenerative diseases. Hadas' tale is well written, and if you are a poetry aficionado, you will probably love it. However, I was put off by her self absorption. While I understand her anguish, she seems almost angry at her husband for much of the book. Signs of empathy and caring were few and far between. For this reason, I liked "Dignifying Dementia" and "Relentless Goodbye" much better. Second reading, May 2020: This book spoke to me more the second time around, maybe because I had lived some of the same lonely trauma, although my spouse's journey was different. Similar diminishing of communication ability though. I upped my rating to 4 stars this time.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Melissa

  9. 4 out of 5

    E Gaffney

  10. 5 out of 5

    Juliekallen

  11. 5 out of 5

    Amy

  12. 5 out of 5

    Michael Vancalbergh

  13. 4 out of 5

    Colleen

  14. 4 out of 5

    Mrs. J

  15. 5 out of 5

    Carol

  16. 4 out of 5

    Daniel

  17. 4 out of 5

    Anna Rae Aberle

  18. 5 out of 5

    Gil Roth

  19. 5 out of 5

    Kari O'driscoll

  20. 4 out of 5

    Tori

  21. 5 out of 5

    Makela

  22. 4 out of 5

    Martha

  23. 5 out of 5

    Tracy

  24. 4 out of 5

    Chelsea

  25. 4 out of 5

    Emily

  26. 4 out of 5

    Clifford

  27. 5 out of 5

    Deborah Bright

  28. 4 out of 5

    Jack Ziegler

  29. 5 out of 5

    Beverly

  30. 5 out of 5

    Sérgio Alcides

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