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The Living End: A Memoir of Forgetting and Forgiving Hardcover – Jan 17 2012

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 160 pages
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press (Jan. 17 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312621248
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312621247
  • Product Dimensions: 13.1 x 1.7 x 18.8 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 113 g
  • Average Customer Review: Be the first to review this item
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #2,092,647 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description


The Living End is Robert Leleux's exceptionally moving memoir about his beloved grandmother and his heroic caring for her as she slipped into the grip of Alzheimer’s. The book is at times hilarious, tender, and heartbreaking—further proof that Mr. Leleux is ripening into one of the best prose stylists in America.”
—Pat Conroy

“Robert Leleux sets off on a journey that will be familiar to many Baby Boomers - watching a beloved elder painfully slipping away - but his version of the tale is singularly bittersweet, funny, and empathetic.  It's a rare thing to find a memoir of illness that can be described as cheerful, but this one is that - and much more.”
—Mark Childress, author of Georgia Bottoms and Crazy in Alabama

“Robert Leleux's hilarious and poignant memoir of his fractured family takes an unexpected, wholly satisfying turn at the end: as lives ebb, memories fail, and long-withheld loves emerge.” —John Berendt, author of Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil and The City of Falling Angels

 ”Not many people are able to find a silver lining in Alzheimer's, and few writers are gifted enough to make you see it and believe it.  Leleux relates his family's story with love, humor, and hope.”—Margo Howard, “Dear Margo” columnist

“You will never forgive me if you don't read this book and you will never forget the author, Robert Leleux either. Leleux reminds us that the magic of our relatively short time on earth, only exists in a world of forgetting and forgiveness! I believe that Auntie Mame herself would have put her STAMP OF APPROVAL on this book as I have too!”
—Kathy L. Patrick, Founder of The Pulpwood Queens Book Clubs

“This spare, extraordinary book by turns splits the sides and breaks the heart, but it is the healing vibration of laughter you're left with — what comes when one sees existence whole and luminous, and with it the daunting logic of human love.”
—Honor Moore, Author of The Bishop's Daughter

“In a wonderfully engaging heart-of-the-matter voice, Robert Leleux chronicles his chic Texas grandmother's descent into the gloom of Alzheimer's.  He is circumspect in recording the many indignities the disease brings and equally faithful to praise the joys of a happy marriage, of good wigs and zinger punch lines.  Leleux's writing is as bright and elegant as one of his grandmother's hats, his love of family and faith in their enduring strength a rare and refreshing thing.” —Janis Owens, author of The Schooling of Claybird Catts

“Robert Leleux tickles his way to triumph yet again. With his trademark wit and colorful southern charm, The Living End transforms Alzheimer's from a disease associated with loss into a blessing of myriad gain.”
—Josh Kilmer-Purcell, author of I Am Not Myself These Days and The Bucolic Plague

The Living End is as funny as it is heartfelt.  Robert Leleux is among the great emerging talents of his generation; I'm bowled over by the beauty of his writing.”
—Sarah Bird, author of The Yokota Officers Club and The Gap Year

“The Living End is terrific! I could not stop reading this family journey of loss, hope and redemption. With humor and poignancy, Robert Leleux does a magical job of capturing the beautiful and often complex relationship between grandparent and grandchild.”Michael Morris, author of Slow Way Home

“A fascinating Southern tale of an estranged mother and daughter — and the unlikely fate that brings them together. Affably narrated by Robert Leleux, a man who loved both women, The Living End is a touching reminder that, ultimately, we are not defined by our memories. But our commitments to dwelling on the past and resentments can keep us from becoming the person we want to be. Even for those we love the most.”—Neil White, author of In the Sanctuary of Outcasts

"[JoAnn] emerges not only as a beloved figure, but as a larger-than-life character who was eager for the spotlight, funny, gracious, occasionally biting in her assessment of others and altogether inspired.
Leleux sweeps readers from New York to Texas to rural Tennessee on a family pilgrimage—an understated work that highlights the emotional rewards of caring for a loved one." --Kirkus Reviews

"Perceptive as well as funny and poignant, Leleux’s book explains that Alzheimer’s can be a kind of gift; certainly, it allowed JoAnn to forget enough to reconcile with the daughter she hadn’t seen for decades. 'Sometimes our memories deceive us and keep us from being who we are,' said Leleux. But JoAnn herself remains memorable."--Library Journal


"The Living End" is funny and tender, and a page-turner. Robert Leleux is witty and wonderful at the putting on the southern charm. His writing is sharp and colorful, and he puts the reader in the thick of the family’s journey with vivid descriptions and dialogue.

The Living End is a reminder that, in the end, we are not defined by our memories. It’s a must-read for both entertainment and relearning some important life lessons."--EDGE

About the Author

ROBERT LELEUX teaches creative writing in the New York city schools.  His nonfiction pieces have appeared in The New York Times Magazine, Texas Observer, and elsewhere.  He lives with his husband, Michael Leleux, in Manhattan.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) HASH(0xa17d8108) out of 5 stars 26 reviews
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa17e5ea0) out of 5 stars wonderful upbeat memoir Jan. 17 2012
By Harriet Klausner - Published on
Format: Hardcover
The family matriarch JoAnn is a Texas Steel Magnolia, which means a tougher brand of metal than the other southern states. Noted for her sandpaper tongue that rips the hide off the toughest cowboy, JoAnn is ironically a glamorous southern belle. However, for decades she and her daughter Jessica, a chip off the obstinacy block, remain estranged as the younger woman believed her mother seemed not to care when she or her grandchild needed her. Ironically, just when Jessica gave up on her, she would do something incredible like sending Robert a ton of books. When JoAnn's memory began to fade due to Alzheimer's, her family found it as a miracle that brought her back into their lives. Much of the two generations' anger vanished as Jessica reconciled with her mom and Robert spent quality time with a grandma who never condemned his choices.

This wonderful upbeat memoir looks at Alzheimer's as a reconciliatory bringing together of an estranged family as by forgetting, JoAnn and her family are forgiving. This positive assertion does not hide from the caretaking problems caused by dementia, but prefers to look at the positive that came out of the disease. Mr. Leleux reminds me of my husband's fondest memory of his beloved mom during her "Living End" Alzheimer's in which she did not know who her kids were but euphorically sucked the last neutrino of a chocolate shake. Much of this biography focuses on the generational war and peace as Mr. Leleux latest memoir (see The Memoirs of a Beautiful Boy) affectionately yet realistically portrays his flawed larger than Texas grandma on her final Cotton Bowl gala.

Harriet Klausner
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa17e5f24) out of 5 stars The Nexus of Laughter and Loss Jan. 20 2012
By Marilyn Bellock - Published on
Format: Hardcover
It would be easy to think of Robert Leleux's THE LIVING END as a narrow story of one young man's relationship with his firecracker grandmother at the end of her life. And while this work certainly delivers on that score with great, rhythmic story telling and wildly funny characters and dialogue it ends up being much more than that. Unexpectedly, amidst the laughter, you realize that you're also reading a broad philosophical work about patience, letting go and love. This is only the second book in my lifetime where, as soon as I finished it, I turned to page one to start over because I wanted the perspective I had gained by its end to inform the early parts - when I was laughing too hard to fully appreciate its import. Reading this book was a wonderful journey.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa17e845c) out of 5 stars The Living End Feb. 12 2012
By LawyerBarbee - Published on
Format: Kindle Edition
Most people can remember a teacher who made an impact on their lives...not so much because of the lesson or subject matter, but because of the way that teacher taught it. This is what it's like to read Robert Leleux's beautiful memoir, The Living End: A Memoir of Forgetting and Forgiving. Robert gives the reader a personal tour through his memories of caring for his Grandmother during her struggle with Alzheimer's. Alzheimer's is a disease that ravishes the body and the mind, so at first glance, with "just the facts," it would be easy to anticipate feeling depressed and emotionally drained after reliving the tragedy of JoAnn's succumbing to the disease.

Not so with Robert's narrative. Just like that one special teacher made the Visigoths' sacking of Rome so real and exciting to me in 8th grade, Robert turns tragedy into unforgettable moments that touch the heart and feed the soul. One of the favorite examples I can give {spoiler alert) is the moment when Robert is home alone, not only with his own grandmother (and brand new little white dog), but also with his husband's mother who was also recovering from major illness. Little white dog darts out the door; Robert faces a catch-22 of having to search for the dog at nightfall in the mud or leaving the women unattended for 5 minutes. Dog wins. Robert returns in a flash only to find his grandmother and mother-in-law on the floor, in each other's arms, howling with laughter. True, they both fell down the stairs and this could have spelled disaster, but somehow through Robert's lens, the experience turned into something entirely different, showcasing Robert's quick wit and amazing talent for recognizing the comic relief in both the tragic and the mundane.

Although this book will be lauded for its honesty and the dignity it gives JoAnn and so many others who live through this disease, a person does not have to even have an experience with Alzheimer's to enjoy and appreciate this book. That's the genius of Robert Leleux...the reason why he reminds me so much of my favorite teachers. Even if you weren't there, even if you have no idea what it's like to experience what he is going through, Robert teaches the reader what it's like to be a student of life, and for that I am truly grateful.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa17e8570) out of 5 stars Captivating Read Jan. 21 2012
By anonymous - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is a love story where love and a memorable sense of humor triumphs over Alzheimer's.This book will make you laugh and then at times you cry reading about this journey forever transforming one's understanding of the living end.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa17e872c) out of 5 stars Great read! May 29 2012
By B. Burgess - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Buy this book. several copies, because you're going to want to share.

On the surface, "The Living End" is a tribute to Mr Leleux's grandmother. In it he charts her downward spiral from a steel spined Grande Dame of the South to her eventual death due to the ravages of Alzheimer's. But the book is about far more than the tragedy and horror of Alzheimer's. As strange as it sounds, it's a book about gifts. The gift of letting go. The gift of humor. The gift of forgetting old grudges and hurts. And, ultimately, the gift of forgiveness. For his part, Leleux gives the reader the humor and joy to be had on even the saddest of days. There are moments in which I laughed out loud despite myself, and others when I wept openly (and I'm NOT the weepy type). I've given this book to several friends and, at first, I get the tepid "thank you" accorded to someone who passes along an unsolicited book, but later I always get a call later with sincere appreciation for passing "The Living End" to them. So you're going to want to buy several copies. One for yourself and others to hand out.