The Book Worm: Missing memories; murder goes both ways

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“An Unintended Journey: A Caregiver’s Guide to Dementia”

By Janet Yagoda Shagam

c. 2013, Prometheus Books

$20/$21 Canada

427 pages

“The Geography of Memory: A Pilgrimage Through Alzheimer’s”

By Jeanne Murray Walker

c. 2013, Center Street

$22/$24 Canada

384 pages

“Living with Loss, One Day at a Time”

By Rachel Blythe Kodanaz

c. 2013, Fulcrum Books

$15.95/$18.50 Canada

386 pages

This time of year always makes you think of things past.

You’re reminded of the holidays, and the kids when they were small. That makes you think about when you were a kid, of fun outside, Mom’s cookies inside, games that never ended, favorite toys, and family.

You’ve been thinking about all these things and remembering because you’re taking care of someone who can’t. It’s hard on you to watch, but there are resources to help. Start with these three new books for the Alzheimer’s caregiver

When you’re in the midst of crisis, it’s sometimes hard to know what to do next. “An Unintended Journey: A Caregiver’s Guide to Dementia” by Janet Yagoda Shagam will help you put your thoughts in a straighter line.

From the basics of understanding and testing for solid diagnosis, to end-of-life issues and beyond, this extremely comprehensive book helps with easy-to-understand explanations, suggestions, and worksheets for writing down thoughts, to-dos, and feelings. You’ll learn how to ask for help from siblings; how to ensure legal concerns are in place; how to deal with anger issues (on both sides); and how to cope, day-to-day. What’s nice is that “An Unintended Journey” can be used both by the new caregiver, or as a refresher for anyone who’s an old hand at taking care of a loved one.

Caregiving can be frustrating, but you’ve come to realize that it can be rewarding, too. Still, you wonder how others deal with everything. In “The Geography of Memory” by Jeanne Murray Walker , you’ll see how to cope with grace and humor.

Walker ’s mother was relatively young when the family first noticed a problem, starting with the small things, and it progressed. But while this book begins with an end, it’s really a celebration of life and love, the joy of family, the absurdity of the frailties of human mind and body, and finding good inside the bad. Be aware that, because it contains vast amounts of recounted conversation, it’s partly fictionalized but that doesn’t lessen its helpfulness.

And finally how do you learn to accept the losses you’re feeling? With “Living with Loss, One Day at a Time” by Rachel Blythe Kodanaz, you’ll get a one-a-day bite of encouragement.

Meant to be read in tiny increments, this book offers ideas to grieve, accept, act and re-act and, ultimately, to heal. The ideas here range in size and time, most are well under a page in length to read, and they serve to distract, sooth, or to make you think in a direction that’s not right in front of you. I like this book because it’s not at all time-consuming and there’s no pressure to read it but when you do, you’ll surely find something inspirational to help.

There are a lot of books on the shelves for Alzheimer’s caregivers, but these three will give you advice and direction, assurance that you’re not alone, and a balm for when you need it most. Look for them because, of course, a caregiver needs care, too.

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“Killer Dads: The Twisted Drives That Compel Fathers to Murder Their Own Kids”

By Mary Papenfuss

c. 2013, Prometheus Books

$19/$20 Canada

271 pages

Snow White had it pretty bad.

She had an evil stepmother who tried to get some poor schlub to kill Snow, to no avail. Abandonment didn’t work for Hansel & Gretel’s stepmom, either, but it did almost get them eaten. Pity poor Cinderella an evil stepmother and two stepsisters.

Unfairly or not, in literature and movies, stepmothers often get a bum rap. But what if the blame is mislaid? In “Killer Dads” by Mary Papenfuss, you’ll see that murder can go both ways.

Mary Papenfuss keeps pictures of children on her office bulletin board. Not many are “pictures of happy kids,” she says. She doesn’t, in fact, know most of those children, except through court cases and news stories because those kids are dead by the hands of “people they loved and people they thought loved them.” In the last ten years, Papenfuss says, some 20,000 children have been murdered at home. Many of them were killed by a father or stepfather.

Take “James,” for instance.

James now sits in protective custody in a Washington prison, stringing beads and watching his back. He’s afraid because “his co-convicts want to murder him” like he murdered his five-year-old stepdaughter. A few years ago, James who admits that he had problems with anger fought with his wife, then took her “baby” downstairs and brutally killed the girl with a kitchen knife.

Anger is a common reason given for losing control, but it’s not the only one. Lawyer Bill Parente was beloved for his gentle demeanor and his talent for making money for his investment clients. When police discovered the bodies of Parente, his wife, and their two daughters in a motel, officials quickly learned that Parente was the creator of a crumbling Ponzi scheme and was deeply in debt. They ultimately believed that he killed his family to spare them the “humiliation” of losing their lifestyle.

Josh Powell famously killed himself and his sons in a rigged explosion; Powell’s wife is still missing. Scott Peterson was convicted of murdering his wife and unborn son. And officials still argue over the possibility of “honor killings” in several states around the country

Are we little better than langur monkeys, the males of which ruthlessly murder the infants of their rivals? That’s just one of the questions asked by author Mary Papenfuss in this surprising true crime book.

At first, “Killer Dads” may seem like any other in this genre: readers are given a bit of back-story, followed by an account of a violent murder and a brief bit of aftermath. But rather than quickly moving on to the next crime, Papenfuss offers in-between chapters that attempt to explain some disturbing facts. We teach our children, for example, of “stranger danger” (which, she says, is rarer) but the fact is that kids are astoundingly more likely to be killed by someone they trusted.

While this book is a guaranteed nightmare-maker for any parent, it’s a dream-read for true crime fanatics. If you’re feeling brave, therefore, here’s your book. “Killer Dads” ain’t too bad.

The Bookworm is Terri Schlichenmeyer. She has been reading since she was 3 years old and never goes anywhere without a book. Terri lives on a hill in Wisconsin with two dogs and 11,000 books.

© 2013 marconews.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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