Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “The Geography of Memory: A Pilgrimage Through Alzheimer's” as Want to Read:
The Geography of Memory: A Pilgrimage Through Alzheimer's
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

The Geography of Memory: A Pilgrimage Through Alzheimer's

4.02  ·  Rating details ·  107 ratings  ·  40 reviews
Award-winning poet Jeanne Murray Walker tells an extraordinarily wise, witty, and quietly wrenching tale of her mother's long passage into dementia. This powerful story explores parental love, profound grief, and the unexpected consolation of memory. While Walker does not flinch from the horrors of "the ugly twins, aging and death," her eye for the apt image provides a win ...more
Hardcover, 384 pages
Published September 3rd 2013 by Center Street (first published January 1st 2013)
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about The Geography of Memory, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about The Geography of Memory

This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 4.02  · 
Rating details
 ·  107 ratings  ·  40 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of The Geography of Memory: A Pilgrimage Through Alzheimer's
Gina Ochsner
Sep 13, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Many have written about the slow ravages of Alzheimer's; few have written about the disease with the degree of courage, honesty, intelligence, and heart that Jeanne Murray Walker has. This book is a journey through so much more than "disease". Murray Walker ravels and unravels the complicated skeins of childhood, both hers and her mother's, as she knits that strange and ever elusive knot we call memory.
Sep 09, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: own
Where do I begin? Perhaps the beginning. Last April, I met Jeanne Murray Walker at an event where I work and pre-ordered her book shortly after hearing about this book project. Just the details excited me, and I wasn't disappointed. Not at all.

Jeanne Murray Walker's The Geography of Memory: A Pilgrimage Through Alzheimer's ought to be required reading for anyone who has a parent or loved one sliding into dementia or Alzheimer's. Walker approaches the subject with grace, love, and a human touch t
Jan 02, 2015 rated it did not like it
Shelves: non-fiction, memoir
I really struggled with this book. I was happy when I won it in a giveaway, but then I postponed reading it because my mother's own pilgrimage with Alzheimer's, and consequently my own experience, makes it a tender subject. Finally, though, it rose to the top of my desired reads. I found the book to be more of Jeanne Murray Walker's memoir than a book about Alzheimer's. I suppose that's fitting in many ways. My own mother's loss of memory has increased my own replaying of memories. Still, I expe ...more
Jul 04, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nonfiction, memoir
I received a copy of The Geography of Memory from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for a fair and honest review. The opinions expressed here are solely my own.

The Geography of Memory: A Pilgrimage through Alzheimer's has been in my to be read stack for far too long. Personal family matters perhaps caused me to keep shoving it to the lower depths of the book pile. For some reason, a few days ago I decided it was time to dig in and read this memoir by Jeanne Murray Walker.

Despite the heavin
Catherine Gillespie
Feb 17, 2015 rated it it was ok
Shelves: memoir
Walker’s method of using her mother’s fading memories to examine how her own recollections shaped and impacted her understanding of herself, her parents, and her role in the family is well conceived and well done. If you take the book more as a memoir and an examination of memory, and less as a book about what Alzheimer’s is like, it comes across better. However, I still have some trouble recommending it, because I didn’t honestly like the book very much.

During her mother’s illness, Walker lived
Oct 03, 2013 rated it it was amazing
So much of the time when we read about heart breaking diseases such as Alzheimers, we hardly see the silver lining. In Jeanne Murray Walker's "The Geography of Memory," the road is long but not without sunshine. Told in simple yet articulate prose, Walker recounts her mother's journey through the illness--her struggles, her successes, and her new understanding of disease and the human spirit. With segments of "Field Notes," the author weaves the narrative with "scientific" observations of what h ...more
Linda Hanstra
May 16, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: enjoyment, on-writing
A beautifully-written memoir that chronicles the author’s journey with her mother who had Alzheimer’s. It explores the complicated family dynamics of siblings caring for “Mom,” mother-daughter relationships, faith, and all it means to slowly lose, while learning to care for, that most influential person in one’s life.
May 08, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read-in-2017
This is a masterfully written book. Not only is the language beautiful, but the subject matter is so tenderly handled. This is a stunning memoir. I recommend it for anyone who lives in a body in the world. #MFA
Emily Jensen
Jun 29, 2020 rated it really liked it
Very good, and gracefully written. Memoir just isn't something I usually reach for, or it'd probably be a 5-star read.
Oct 01, 2013 rated it it was amazing
For anyone who grew up in a subculture in which one’s beloved parents held core beliefs that were at odds with, and perhaps considered superior to, those of the dominant culture – an inwardly circumscribed society in which your child-self implicitly shared this world-and-life view until you shook or slipped off its beliefs in your teens or beyond (or adopted a different tradition’s perspective on the same founding stories) – then you may find your own memories redemptively jogged by this story o ...more
Jan 04, 2014 added it
I really loved this book--I'm sure partly because I have known Jeanne for many years. But what I realized as I read is how much of Jeanne's life I have never known about, which was fascinating to hear about.
My own mother died this past fall, at age 91, fairly unexpectedly but also at a point where we all feel she was pretty ready to go, so I think that colored my reading too.
But more than anything, whether I had known Jeanne or not, whether my mother had died or not, I would have loved this bo
Cheryl Dietr
Nov 04, 2013 rated it really liked it
Disclosure: I received this book through the giveaway on Goodreads.

The story of a woman who re-discovers pieces of her life while her mother slowly loses hers.

This book is difficult to review because I feel conflicted about it. If the truth be known I would probably give it a 3.5 if Goodreads had that type of rating system. I feel conflicted because the author is such a talented writer. She is a fine crafter of sentences, feelings, mood, place and the intricacies of human relationships. She know
Oct 17, 2013 rated it liked it
I received a free copy of this book from Center Street (the publisher) as a Goodreads giveaway.

The Geography of Memory is less about the author's mother's experience with Alzheimer's and more about Walker's complex relationship with her mother throughout her life, focused through the lens of the dementia "pilgrimage." The narrative is also centered around Walker's relationship with her sister, who shares in the responsibility of taking care of their mother. This made me reflect a great deal on m
Mar 31, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Lanita by: Annelle Huggins
This book resonated with me because the author's relationship with her mother was so similar to my own. Unlike hers, my mother's mind stayed sharp to the last minute: her body wore out before her mind did. What a blessing that is!

And yet, through Ms. Walker's eyes, I can see the way her conversations with her mother prompted memories of her own. We both traveled back and forth to help with our mothers, but her telling of the process was much more than a series of journal entries.

Her language cho
Sep 05, 2013 rated it really liked it
When I first received this book as a First Reads Giveaway, I fully expected to read a tragic memoir about the terrors of Alzheimer's. However, this book wasn't that kind of book at all. Instead, it really is a book about memories- the author and her mother's memories. Walker seamlessly weaves together her journey into memories and her mother's loss of memories so effectively that it is often difficult to tell where Walker's story begins and where her mother's story ends. But I think that is the ...more
Harry Brake
Oct 17, 2013 rated it really liked it
This account of the move through Alzheimer's is smooth, easy to follow, and easy to get involved with. So much so I found myself also helpless to see any hope outside of falling into the trap of being able to see a solution. Yet I realize the goal of Jeanne Murray Walker's text is to show the journey, how the journey was travelled, and how she came to terms with the terrible situation that impacts so many. Being able to relate to her immediate situation, working through the frustrations, the cop ...more
Teri Smith
Initially I did not like this book, & I stopped reading it several times before I finished. I think my problem is the author wrote from her perspective in 1st person, & I just didn't like HER very much. She came across as pretty self-absorbed, concerned most with how her mother's dementia was affecting her. To be honest, however, we are all basically narcissist & unless we make a conscious effort we view the world & the people around us in this way.
As her story progresses, she grows in her appre
Cindy Pomerleau
Nov 02, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I love everything about this book. First of all, it's refreshing antidote to the "all is lost" view of Alzheimer's. It's more as though the layers are gradually peeled away as her mother spirals into dementia, and the author repeatedly finds new ways of relating to her mother where she is, not where she used to be. Secondly, the author learns much about herself as well as about her mother during that journey, making it a moving coming of age story as she connects and reconnects with her mother. ...more
Oct 04, 2013 rated it really liked it
I won this book in a good-reads contest.
Honestly, the reason why I entered the contest and want to read this book
was because I had dealt with something like this with my great-grandmother and my bf grandmother and it wasn't easy to each time. I remember shaking my grandmother telling her that her mom still loves her and always going to be here even when she has Alzheimer's. I remember the tears and the heartache watching that person going through and everyone around them.
So when I won this boo
Sandra Vander Schaaf
Feb 05, 2014 rated it really liked it
The hours I spent with "The Geography of Memory" were like hours spent with a good friend. Jeanne Murray Walker's voice is tender, gentle, and has a clarity I love. The story of her experience caring for her mother through all the stages of Alzheimer's—with particular attentiveness to the myriad ways it challenged and changed family relationships—is thoughtfully and humbly told. It is not only a tribute to the complexities and richness of the mother-daughter relationship, but an inspired call to ...more
Oct 05, 2013 rated it really liked it
This was from a Goodreads was a charming book, I really enjoyed it. I know a lot of people suffer with Alzheimer's and their family suffers right along with them. This helps give a little insight when you think they may just be confused and babbling, they may actually be pulling from their past and not just randomly blabbing. My mother in law started reading it and she was interested so I let her borrow it now!
Oct 24, 2013 rated it it was amazing
The Geography of Memory is more than a book to be read only by those with a direct experience of, or particular interest in, dementia. It can be read by all those looking for honest, tender and luminously written evidence that, as Walker says, “in spite of suffering, our universe is ordered by a force that’s not chance, not brutality, not evil, but goodness.” Read my full review here: ...more
Nov 04, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: won-received
I really liked reading this book. Although I had expected more about the actual journey of an Alzheimer's patient, I wasn't disappointed at all! The book is well written and makes clear that Alzheimer's affects the whole family - not just in the present but also in the past. This disease is able to make one reconsider not just the life of the affected relative but also one's own life in a very deep and stirring way.
Nov 05, 2013 rated it it was amazing
As a slow pilgrim I journeyed in joy and sorrow through Jeanne Murray Walker's The Geography of Memory: A Pilgrimage Through Alzheimer's and kept running across Eudora Welty's able and apt bookmarked quote: "The events of our lives happen in a sequence in time, but in their significance to ourselves they find their own order: the continuous thread of revelation" (bookmark courtesy of Eighth Day Books). Walker's story is a page-turner. A magnanimous and magnificent memoir on loss and love.
Anne Wright
Jan 01, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I heard my friend Jeanne's reading of her new book just before Christmas and bought copies for all of my siblings as we face what may be a similar journey. My favorite vignette was at Jack's performance as first chair concertmaster at Kinhaven and what happens from the 2nd row seats. To go from heartbreaking to belly laughs in a matter of sentences was but one example of Jeanne's brilliance as a storyteller. Thank you for this gift to our family.
Connie Corey
I thought this book was going to be more about the actual progression of Alzheimer's but instead is a memoir by a daughter about what she learned through taking care of her mother during the mom's descent into Alzheimer's. Loved the bare truth told by the author about her early life with her mom. The author's supposition is that the author resurrected many childhood memories via her mom's chaotic loss of her own memories.
I would recommend this.
Oct 20, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I'm glad I picked up that book in Colorado in a garage sale. it has not been read and send very interesting. could I clean something about memory loss? well I really enjoyed this narrative about the authors mother progress in her dementia. it's poignant and I lived the question: what is self? is it the ability to remember? I loved the candor of the author and her psychological analyses. good book overall
Townsville Library
Mar 03, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Find Dementia Awarness books in Townsville

A pilgrimage through Alzheimer's.
Oct 02, 2013 rated it really liked it
An interesting book. I think I expected more experiences that actually talked about the mother and less about what the author was thinking. The most important thing was this book gave insight to what millions are dealing with on a daily basis.
Oct 31, 2013 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: anyone with aging parents
Shelves: own-this-book
I won this book through Goodread's Firstreads. It was wonderful. I just went through a similar pilgrimage a few years ago with my mom, and I wish that I had the book back then. It really showed that we are not alone in our journeys. I couldn't put the book down until I was finished with it.
« previous 1 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »

Readers also enjoyed

  • Ninth House (Alex Stern #1)
  • The Collected Stories
  • Shatter Me (Shatter Me, #1)
  • Arthur C. Danto: Remarks on Art and Philosophy
  • Nightbird
  • The Darkest Part of the Forest
  • The Alloy of Law (Mistborn, #4)
  • Destroy Me (Shatter Me, #1.5)
  • Confessions of a Video Vixen
  • And Still I Rise
  • Shadows of Self (Mistborn, #5)
  • Ignite Me (Shatter Me, #3)
  • The Anxiety Solution: A Quieter Mind, a Calmer You
  • Shorefall (Founders, #2)
  • Defy Me (Shatter Me, #5)
  • Draw Your Day: An Inspiring Guide to Keeping a Sketch Journal
  • The Secret (The Secret, #1)
  • The Color of Magic (Discworld, #1; Rincewind, #1)
See similar books…
Jeanne Murray Walker's poems and essays have appeared in seven books as well as many periodicals, including Poetry, The Georgia Review, American Poetry Review, Image, The Atlantic Monthly, and Best American Poetry. Among her awards are an NEA Fellowship, eight Pennsylvania Council on the Arts Fellowships, and a Pew Fellowship in The Arts. She is Professor of English at The University of Delaware a ...more

Related Articles

If you haven't heard of record-smashing singer and songwriter Mariah Carey, is there any hope for you? Who else has sold more than 200 million...
53 likes · 22 comments