Book Review: And Every Morning The Way Home Gets Longer and Longer

And Every Morning The Way Home Gets Longer and Longer.  A novella by Fredrik Backman.

This novella is a treasure.  Just 76 index card sized pages which can be read in less than an hour.  But packed with deeply insightful, poignant and hauntingly beautiful messages that will touch the reader for a lifetime. Messages about fear, forgetting, life, love, loss, regrets, dementia, relationships, experiencing life, compassion, death, about being different (and that being ok) and about how life comes full circle in so many different ways.

This book moved me to tears. I read it once and then I read it again.  I flagged page after page and underlined passage after passage.  I read and re-read line after beautiful line. So many favorites.

Maybe this book touched me so much because in my career as a guardianship attorney I work with individuals affected by dementia every day – with clients who are afflicted with Alzheimer’s and with families who are trying to help their loved one who is experiencing dementia.  In the book Grandpa is struggling with how to explain to his beloved grandson, Noahnoah, how dementia is going to make him eventually forget everything, even Noah.  (He closes his eyes.”What do I say to Noah? How do I explain that I’m going to be leaving him even before I die?”)

Maybe it touched me so much because I’m a daughter, with two healthy but aging parents whose decline is statistically inevitable and I’m afraid of being personally affected by death and fear and forgetting and regrets. (” . . . sometimes it feels like having fallen asleep on a sofa while it’s still light and then suddenly being woken up once it’s dark; it takes me a few seconds to remember where I am. I’m in space for a few moment, have to blink and rub my eyes and let my brain take a couple of extra steps to remember who I am and where I am. To get home. That’s the road that’s getting longer and longer every morning, the way home from space. . . “)

Maybe it touched me so much because I am a mom of two young adults who are on the cusp of being an adult. (“Tell me about school, Noahnoah,” the old man says. . . “Our teacher made us write a story about what we want to be when we’re big,” Noah tells him. “What did you write?” “I wrote that I wanted to concentrate on being little first.” “That’s a very good answer.” “Isn’t it? I would rather be old than a grown-up. All grown-ups are angry, it’s just children and old people who laugh.” “Did you write that?” “Yes.” “What did your teacher say?” “She said I hadn’t understood the task.” “And what did you say?” “I said she hadn’t understood my answer.” “I love you,” Grandpa manages to say with closed eyes.)

Maybe it touched me so much because I feel the disappearing that happens with Alzheimer’s in the way that my elderly clients cling to my hand and look in my eyes.  (“Why are you holding my hand so tight, Grandpa?” the boy whispers again. “Because all of this is disappearing, Noahnoah. And I want to keep hold of you longest of all.” The boy nods. Holds his grandpa’s hand tighter in return.)

Maybe it touched me so much because after 40+ years of living, I finally found the love that Grandpa describes between him and Grandma. (He and the girl are on a road and they’re young again. . . She stood in front of him with January in her hair and he was lost. She was the first person in his life that he couldn’t work out, though he spent every minute of it after that day trying. “I always knew who I was with you. You were my shortcut,” Grandpa confides . . .”We lived an extraordinarily ordinary life.” “An ordinarily extraordinary life.” She laughs. . . They dance on the shortcut until darkness falls.)

Maybe it touched me so much because even now, when my kids are not quite kids but not quite adults, I feel regrets about what I’ve done and not done as a parent and whether I can fix my shortcomings. (“Don’t forget to put more stones under the anchor. And ask Ted about the guitar.” “It’s too late now.” She laughs inside his brain then. “Darling obstinate you. It’s never too late to ask your son about something he loves.”)

Maybe it touched me so much because for all these years I’ve been working with clients and families with Alzheimer’s, even though I’m the professional who they turn to for help and guidance, I didn’t have the answers that could truly help them. I could get them through the maze that is guardianship court, but I couldn’t help them through the maze that is forgetting and fear and love all rolled up in one. Fredrik Backman’s “And Every Morning The Way Home Gets Longer and Longer” showed me how I can truly help my clients with Alzheimer’s – by keeping them company while they walk down the forgetting road. (“We just need to be careful, does that make sense? With your grandpa. His brain. . . the think is, Noah, sometimes it’s going to be working slower than we’re used to. Slower than Grandpa is used to.” “Yeah. The way home’s getting longer and longer every morning now. . . What can we do to help Grandpa?” The dad’s tears dry on the boy’s sweatshirt. “We can walk down the road with him. We can keep him company.”)

I can’t say enough good things about Fredrik Backman’s novella.

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Passages in paranthesis are taken directly from Fredrik Backman’s “And Every Morning The Way Home Gets Longer and Longer.”

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