Thinking About John Thorndike

I first heard of writer John Thorndike years ago in Santa Fe. A friend of mine at the public library called and said–I just read a great novel by a guy who lives here…It was THE POTATO BARON, which indeed I did love.
I just read Thorndike’s memoir about moving to Cape Cod to live with his father who is dying of Alzheimer’s. I admit I like books about extremis–death on Everest, survival–and books abut disease. So this would have intrigued me in any case.
But really the pleasure in THE LAST OF HIS MIND is the writing and sensibility. The author is both honest and kind. The strange peace and claustrophobia of taking care of someone who is dying is a lot like being home all day with an infant, and Thorndike captures that. He loves his father, but hopes he won’t die before the writer is finished with his subject, not just the son with his father.
Too many such books tend to lament–how could such a brilliant person, oh what a terrible disease. By contrast, Thorndike seems more to observe. It isn’t exactly acceptance but rather the writer’s narrow path between wanting things to be one way and seeing how they really are.
John Thorndike has written another book about caretaking, an earlier one about raising his son Janir—ANOTHER WAY HOME. This book is a kind of companion to that one. Full of insight, secrets, wishes, fears, and an understanding of what it means to be a person–and superb writing.

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