Born in Newnan, Georgia, and raised in Jackson, Florida, Cary Henderson was the first member of his family to go to college. He eventually earned a Ph.D. from Duke University and with his family, settled into an academic career as a history professor at James Madison University. In 1985, at the age of fifty-five, he was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease.

As his ability to read and write deteriorated, Henderson began using a pocket recorder to tape what he called "the anecdotal career of an Alzheimer's patient" in order to help others "understand the world that they are now forced to live in" (4). His recorded journal spans the fall of 1991 to the summer of 1992. His wife and daughter began the long process of editing his tapes and were ultimately joined in the project by Nancy Andrews, award-winning photographer from The Washington Post, who provided images of Henderson to accompany his words.


Stories of illness have become a commonplace feature of afternoon talk shows, on bookstore shelves, and in medical school classrooms. Such narratives are told to reclaim control, repair damage, and resist the isolation of illness or disability.

In spite of the fact that approximately four million Americans suffer from Alzheimer's, there are few stories relating the experience of this progressive and debilitating disease. As Lonnie Kliever writes in the foreword to Partial View, the reason is "heartbreakingly obvious: there are no survivors or happy endings" (xi). All of the ways in which we make sense of our experience through narrative--time and place, cause and effect--are taken from those who stumble about in the fractured, shadowy and baffling world of Alzheimer's.

Cary Henderson catalogues firsthand the losses: work, memories, words, relationships, movement and self. Motivated by the silence that already exists around the disease and by the fear that he will also lose his voice, Henderson is determined to communicate this particular "version of hell" to both patients and care givers: "I may not know all the time what I' m talking about, but I, damn it, still I can talk" (3).

Henderson's notes from the Alzheimer's underground are often rambling, sometimes fragmented, but always poignant. They are accompanied by Nancy Andrew's compelling photographs which not only capture the bewilderment and diminishment wrought by the disease but also depict the courage and dignity of a remarkable individual who demands that people with Alzheimer's be "talked to and respected as if we were honest to God real people" (7).


38 photographs; foreword by Lonnie D. Kliever; introduction by Ruth D. Henderson; afterword by Sarah Vann Wyne


Southern Methodist Univ, Press

Place Published





Jackie Henderson Main, Ruth D.Henderson & Nancy Andrews

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