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Keeper: One House, Three Generations, and a Journey into Alzheimer's

3.83  ·  Rating Details ·  447 Ratings  ·  71 Reviews
Five years ago, Andrea Gillies— writer, wife, and mother of three—seeing that her husband's parents were struggling to cope, invited them to move in.  She and her newly extended family relocated to a big Victorian house on a remote, windswept peninsula in the far north of Scotland, leaving behind their friends and all that was familiar;  hoping to find a new life, and new ...more
Paperback, 336 pages
Published October 25th 2011 by Broadway Books (first published January 1st 2009)
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(showing 1-30)
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Feb 23, 2011 Candy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Andrea Gillies is an excellent teacher. I learned more about dementia from this book than from anything I have read so far.
I also learned about Andrea's all too human heart. She is an amazing survivor-caretaker. Bravo for all you did for your family, Andrea.
I also wanted to say that the cover art is perfect for the story- the little world surrounding an armchair, with a woman's blurred outline just on the edge of the picture perfectly captures what Andrea described. Nancy became a blur of motio
Oct 17, 2010 Ellen rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is one of the most painful books I've read. Andrea Gillies writes about her in-laws old age and her mother-in-law's falling away from Alzheimer's. Ms. Gillies also writes rather well about the science of the brain and the philosophy of the mind. Her comparisons between the UK system of eldercare and medicine and that of the USA are frustrating and scary. No matter where you live in either country, dementia costs the patient their identity and their family's lose piece of mind, friends and m ...more
Oct 29, 2014 Betsy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is Andrea Gillies' first book. Written in 2009, it won several awards for the best book written on a medical topic in the United Kingdom.

After reading "Still Alice" by Lisa Genova, in which Lisa describes her own personal illness of Alzheimer's disease, "Keeper" is Andrea's experience of her mother-in-law's slow dissent with Alzheimer's. Most interesting to me is the conversational style of writing which illustrates the slow neurological changes. Interspersed with the author's own personal
Nov 21, 2015 4triplezed rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: my-non-fiction
This is a exceptional book but it is not an easy read and with that I recommend it to only those with a genuine interest in the subject. Unless one can relate to the author and her families predicament then they will subject themselves to pages of family related trauma, trauma that not all will want to read about or imagine.

What the author has offered is a view into a world that some will never relate to and with any luck never have to. My mum was recently placed in care, though my family were
May 11, 2013 Lynn rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: autobiography, own-it
One of the best books I've read dealing with the caregiving of someone suffering from Alzheimer's or dementia. She tried so very hard and for so long (YEARS!!) to give complete care to her in-laws, but truly, there comes a time when you must admit (for your own mental/emotional stability) you can no longer provide the necessary care. It is never a pleasant realization, but you must set boundaries and limits to protect your own health. I was so glad I had read this book as my own Mother's battle ...more
Amy Knutson
Aug 30, 2011 Amy Knutson rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: will-not-finish
I could not take this book after 120 pages. I was so excited to read it, and dug in with a desire to try and wait it out for it to get better.

It didn't. There was example after example of how Nancy (the Alzheimer victim) was affected, and how it affected Nancy's husband and Andrea's family, but that was all it included from the human perspective. Other than that, the book was peppered with theories of the disease, which, while interesting for a bit, brought me back to long neuro psych lectures
May 06, 2012 Hillary rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: kindle
Taking a break from the YA fantasy I've been reading (TA Barron's Merlin series), was looking for something meatier - and was really pleasantly surprised that this author not only vividly described the painful human experience of living with a loved one who is losing her mind, but also offered a reasonably technical description of the actual pathogenesis and pathology of Alzheimer's and a few other dementias. Having watched from a relatively safe distance one of my own extended family members su ...more
Dec 03, 2011 Sammie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Although the author has taken some criticism for revealing so much about a person who has no control of her own life, I think this book needed to be written. Most of us know the word dementia and think we understand the meaning. This book gives you a glimpse into the reality of living with it. It explores the human mind's capacity for memory and self-awareness and what it is like to lose them. We read not only about Nancy's decline but also what it does to her husband, her son and his family. Ne ...more
Sally Lindsay-briggs
This is my third book in my library program about reading around the world. It qualifies because the author lives in Scotland and the story takes place in Scotland. It is a true story of Andrea's and her husband's care for their parents. Nancy suffers from Alzheimer's disease and Morris doesn't walk very well. It is a sad story because the care giving sucks the life out of the givers. The book rambles on about all the medical vagaries of Alzheimer' s but it goes into it so much that I am lost an ...more
Vicky Ruppert
Feb 25, 2014 Vicky Ruppert rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
As an Alzheimer's caregiver myself, this is my favorite book. Ms. Gillies doesn't hide anything when she writes about her day to day travails dealing with her family. She shares her true emotions as she feels them. That is so important for other caregivers to read so they realize they are not alone in the wide swings of emotion that they experience. Yes, it is hard to read in the sense that she is brutally honest. For some, it might be too honest. This is a great book for the general public to r ...more
Jan 27, 2011 Nette rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
It's certainly well-written, and the sections on brain science are fascinating, but I think this memoir is exploitative. "Darkly comic" the reviews say, meaning, the author's mother-in-law says and does bizarre, childlike things as her disease progresses, and she gets herself into wacky scrapes like greeting a group of of visitors wearing only her underpants. It would be horrendous enough to have Alzheimer's without having every embarrassment recorded for posterity and sold to a publisher and re ...more
Dec 31, 2014 Linda rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2014
I give full points when a book keeps me reading the way this one did. It is a non-fiction book that presents a great amount of research about Alzheimer's Disease interspersed in the story of the author's efforts to care for her mother-in-law through various stages of the disease. I plan to ask my children to read this book if and when they suspect that I am developing dementia. I'm not sure whether I want to shame them into caring for me in their homes or encourage them to put me in a nursing ho ...more
Jan 30, 2012 Merry rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I think if there were a reading list for life, this book should be on it. As a journal, it is fluently written, with almost painful to read honesty.
In addition Gillies presents much research on both the disease and the process of laying down memory as a kingpin of identity.

Alzheimers may lie ahead for our grandparents, our parents and it may also lie ahead for us. Who knows - it is better to be well-informed in advance.
Nene La Beet
I've met Andrea through Twitter and when I had an ugly exerience with a relative with Alzheimers and tweeted about it, Andrea was extremely supportive and helpful. After that I decided to buy the book. I haven't regretted that for a second. It's beautifully written, full of the latest research and very personal. I cannot believe how anybody can do what Andrea did for her mother-in-law. If you know anyone with Alzheimers, this is a good book to read. But it won't cheer you up.
May 02, 2013 Crystal rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: alzheimers
This book should be read by anyone who has an aging loved one. Dealing with my Mom's newly-diagnosed dementia, I read this book and got so much insight into the disease. The book gives a real-life account, not just medical advice like most books on the topic. I thank the author for having the courage to write this.. I as a caregiver found this book very helpful and interesting.definitely a book worth reading, and one that is very interesting..
Jun 20, 2012 Sharon rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
If I could give this book TEN stars, I would...but unfortunately the most stars are five.

This was a library e-book, BUT, I will visit my local Barnes and Noble and buy this book. Very real story, especially since my father is in the middle stages of Alzheimers...excellent read that I could not put down.

So many pages of this book I felt like I could have written!
Sue Batcheler
Feb 25, 2013 Sue Batcheler rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a brilliant book written by someone who set out to care for her mother in law with dementia and found out more about it and her self along the way. Very honest, pulls no punches, very personal and I thought, quite compulsive but not an easy read and probably not a good idea if you at the beginning of caring for someone with dementia. Otherwise much recommended.
Jul 21, 2012 Aboguski rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography, realistic
A caregiver's account of her mother-in-law's descent into Alzheimer's and the trials of caring for her and her bedridden husband. Engrossing. Scary. Sad. Well-written and thought-provoking. Informative.
Jun 29, 2012 Linda rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Well written. Well researched. A good first hand account of living with someone with memory problems.
Highlights the acceleration of dementia when person is moved from familiar surroundings.
As Jo Brand said "a fantastic book - down to earth and darkly comic. Compelling"
Adrienne Herndon
I really found this book fascinating as I do not have personal experience with Alzheimers. The balance of science and story was engaging.
Annie Booker
Jan 14, 2014 Annie Booker rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
One of the best books I've read on caring for someone with Alzheimers. Informative, hysterically funny in parts and heartwrenchingly tragic in others.
Sep 15, 2013 Julianne rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
Wonderful book. No more needs to be said!!! :)
Aug 19, 2012 Lou rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
Feb 15, 2013 Jim rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book upset me. It’s the third book dealing with Alzheimer’s that I’ve read in a row but only one to actually upset me. The first was a novel from the perspective of a woman with early-onset Alzheimer’s, the second was a popular science book; this was a memoir. The first two were good but I read them dispassionately. Keeper, on the other hand, got to me and it’s all credit to the author’s brutal honesty not only about her mother-in-law’s condition and… I’m going to use the word ‘antics’ but ...more
Victoria Watson
Nov 23, 2011 Victoria Watson rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Five years ago, writer Andrea Gillies moved, with her husband and three children up to a large Victorian mansion on a remote peninsula in the north of Scotland. Along with her family, she took her husband's infirm parents. Leaving behind friends, family and familiarity, Gillies arrived in the windswept area in search of inspiration and the sublime. Andrea's mother-in-law Nancy comes with middle-stage Alzheimer's Disease and Andrea becomes Nancy's carer while also trying to write and run a b'n'b. ...more
Kiera Healy
Mar 05, 2014 Kiera Healy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Keeper is Andrea Gillies' true story about caring for her Alzheimer's-stricken mother-in-law (and depressed, physically disabled father-in-law). It follows Nancy as she drifts deeper into dementia, and as her condition becomes impossible to deal with.

This is a difficult book at times, because of its honesty. Gillies doesn't flinch from showing the harrowing human effects of Alzheimer's. Nancy grows unable to function, hiding her faeces and refusing to bathe. Her conversation is erratic and repet
The title of this book is off-putting. Keeper sounds like a caretaker at a zoo, and not of human beings. I think the author used that title on purpose.

Andrea Gillies probably started out with the best of intentions, but she comes across as mean in her memoir of caring for her elderly in-laws. Her mother-in-law had Alzheimer's, and though the author often reminded her father-in-law of that fact, she seems to have disregarded it when she herself interacted negatively with her charge. She'd threate
Oct 20, 2012 MaryJohanna rated it really liked it
Not for the faint of heart, this book is Andrea Gillies' story of life as a full-time caretaker to her both of her ailing in-laws.
In the retelling, Gillies is painfully honest about her own frustrations, anger and guilt as she (and the entire family) is sucked deeper into the chaos of her Mother-in-law, Nancy's worsening Alzheimer's disease.

For much of the book, she alternates chapters on the science and theory of Alzheimer's with narrative of their day to day challenges. Later, delineations are
Jun 28, 2012 Carol rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jul 01, 2012 Amy rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I read this book because Good Reads recommended it since I read Still Alice. It's about a family with three younger children who take in the husband's parents because the mother has Alzheimer's and the father is crippled from falls. Incredibly depressing story, right down to the weather. Throughout the book, the family is waiting to get the parents onto a waiting list to get into a permanent care facility, but wires are crossed and months go by. The mother (with Alzheimer's) becomes abusive--ver ...more
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I was born in York and went to school there, went to St Andrews University,then worked in theatre publicity and as a journalist and editor. Married another freelance, had three children,and lived in Somerset, Orkney, France. Now separated and living in Edinburgh. Spent 2 years looking after my mother-in-law, who has Alzheimer's, and wrote a diary which became a book: KEEPER, which won the Wellcome ...more
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