Blew, Mary Clearman
Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction
- Dittrich, Lisa
- Date of entry: Sep-15-1997
In Balsamroot, Mary Clearman Blew explores the life story of her beloved aunt, who has recently developed dementia. The memoir artfully interweaves the stories of the author's struggle to cope with her aunt's condition and find the best care for her; her aunt's past as revealed in newly discovered diaries; the author's reconciliation with her estranged daughter; her coming to terms with a broken love relationship from the past (spurred on by her discovery of a thwarted love in her aunt's past).
The first half of this book would be particularly compelling for physicians and other caregivers wishing to understand the strain and difficulties faced by the family members of people with dementia. Alternately grim and quite funny, Blew honestly depicts her own sadness, helplessness, anger, and confusion in the face of her aunt Imogene's mental decline.
She also affirms the interconnectedness of family while deftly exploring how mysterious the people we love most may be (she thinks she knows her aunt well, only to find out a past history of which she was previously unaware). Importantly, by looking closely at her aunt's life and the struggles she has faced, she highlights the dignity of her aunt and her full personhood--easy to forget in light of her present mental condition.