When six fifty-year-old women gather for an annual reunion they've come laughingly to call "Camp Men-o-pause,” at an idyllic midwestern lakeside bed-and-breakfast they face a bewildering and sorrowful difficulty unprecedented in their many years of friendship since college: Micky, in many ways a leader and intellectual bright light among them, has been diagnosed with early Alzheimer's disease. She is present and functioning, but has bouts of confusion and memory loss.

She knows a great deal about her own condition and has shared it with the others. Only with one other, Jan, has she shared her desire to be helped to commit suicide when she becomes seriously incompetent, and, enjoined to secrecy, Jan has to bear the burden alone of deciding whether to make Micky that promise.

The story chronicles the week the women spend together, their various thoughts and conversations about their lives, and the ways in which Micky's disease leads them all to reframe their feelings about friendship, loyalty, aging, and medical options. Much about the week is bittersweet; the story ends inconclusively as Jan is unwilling to promise to help Micky die, but all come to some sobering understandings about what it might mean to "see their friend through” a gradual leavetaking that may erase them all from her memory.


Each chapter in this compelling but unsettling novel is written from the point of view of one of the six women in the group of friends. The device allows the writer to explore a variety of emotional and practical responses to early-stage Alzheimer's and all that it implies.

The writer represents friendship and community in interesting and complex ways, fully acknowledging the shadow side of long relationships that have cast familiar and beloved people into confining roles and laid chronic burdens upon some to carry the emotional weight of crisis. A compelling read, helpful for those (especially women) who face the specter of Alzheimer's among those they love.


Milkweed Editions

Place Published

Minneapolis, Minn.



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