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Somebody I used to know : a memoir
2018
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Summary
"A brave and illuminating journey inside the mind, heart, and life of a person with early-onset Alzheimer's disease."--Lisa Genova, author of Still Alice

Wendy Mitchell had a busy job with the British National Health Service, raised her two daughters alone, and spent her weekends running and climbing mountains. Then, slowly, a mist settled deep inside the mind she once knew so well, blurring the world around her. She didn't know it then, but dementia was starting to take hold. In 2014, at age fifty-eight, she was diagnosed with young-onset Alzheimer's.

In this groundbreaking book, Mitchell shares the heartrending story of her cognitive decline and how she has fought to stave it off. What lay ahead of her after the diagnosis was scary and unknowable, but Mitchell was determined and resourceful, and she vowed to outwit the disease for as long as she could.

As Mitchell learned to embrace her new life, she began to see her condition as a gift, a chance to experience the world with fresh eyes and to find her own way to make a difference. Even now, her sunny outlook persists: She devotes her time to educating doctors, caregivers, and other people living with dementia, helping to reduce the stigma surrounding this insidious disease.

Still living independently, Mitchell now uses Post-it notes and technology to remind her of her routines and has created a "memory room" where she displays photos--with labels--of her daughters, friends, and special places. It is a room where she feels calm and happy, especially on days when the mist descends.

A chronicle of one woman's struggle to make sense of her shifting world and her mortality, Somebody I Used to Know offers a powerful rumination on memory, perception, and the simple pleasure of living in the moment. Philosophical, poetic, intensely personal, and ultimately hopeful, this moving memoir is both a tribute to the woman Wendy Mitchell used to be and a brave affirmation of the woman she has become.

Praise for Somebody I Used to Know

"Remarkable . . . Mitchell gives such clear-eyed insight that anyone who knows a person living with dementia should read this book." -- The Times (London)

"A landmark book . . . The best reward for [Mitchell's] courage and candour would surely be fundamental changes in the way people with dementia are treated by society." --Financial Times
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Booklist Review
*Starred Review* The vacant stare in Julianne Moore's eyes was just right for someone with dementia, Mitchell told the actress after watching Still Alice. Mitchell had been invited to the premiere of the movie in London because of her participation in the Alzheimer's Society, which she joined after she was diagnosed with early-onset dementia at the age of 58. In this powerful memoir, she describes the progression of the disease as it begins to steal away her identity, making her into a person she does not recognize. As time passes, the gulf widens considerably between the woman she becomes, unable to cook for herself or identify familiar faces, and the woman she once was, a driven single mom who was renowned at work for her remarkable memory. By writing to her prediagnosis self as if she were a completely different person, Mitchell beautifully illustrates just how much of a person's identity can be stolen by dementia. But she does not accept her new limitations quietly, instead volunteering to participate in research and speaking at conferences to increase understanding of the disease. She even finds comfort in the way she must now live in the present moment. Somebody I Used to Know is both an indispensable guide for people grappling with the consequences of a dementia diagnosis and a stirring account of courage in the face of devastating loss.--Thoreson, Bridget Copyright 2018 Booklist
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