James has always had a special bond with his Nan, from their summers in the garden to their raspberry blowing at the television. When James is offered the opportunity to follow his boyhood dream in Europe, he can’t wait to tell her. But she has news for him as well – she’s been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. He’s hesitant to leave, but when she hands him a ticket to England, he knows he has to go. He promises to write her every week to help her keep him in her memory. She promises to never forget. Seven years later, James stands at the door of the nursing home, wondering if Nan will be anything like he woman he remembers, and if she’ll remember him…
What happens to the love shared by family members when the memories that created it are fading away?
James and Nan have such a close, loving relationship. My favorite scenes were the ones that explored all of the things they used to do together when James was younger and Nan was healthy. Discussing these common interests provided a lot of material for character development. They also helped me to connect with the characters deeply because I had so many opportunities to see parts of their personalities that probably otherwise wouldn’t have shown up.
The first section of this book focused on James’ career. I was a little surprised to see so much time being spent on discussing what it’s like to pursue that particular job given that this is a fairly short work. The author’s reasons for introducing the audience to the characters in this manner were eventually made clear, but it was still puzzling to wait so long to meet Nan. This was a minor bump in a story that I otherwise really enjoyed, though.
It’s heartbreaking to watch a loved one suffer the side effects of Alzheimer’s disease. This tale captured what it feels like to live through this with incredible accuracy. I was especially impressed with how Mr. Wooding included clues about the progression of Nan’s disease in the conversations she has with James. Their conversations were painfully beautiful and realistic given how much she had declined since last seeing her grandson.
Letters to Nan was wonderful. I’d especially recommend it to anyone who has personal experience with this disease.