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Tangles: A Story About Alzheimer's, My Mother, and Me Paperback – Sep 1 2010

3.7 out of 5 stars 7 customer reviews

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Harry Potter and the Cursed Child
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 132 pages
  • Publisher: Freehand Books (Sept. 1 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1551111179
  • ISBN-13: 978-1551111179
  • Product Dimensions: 23.5 x 0.8 x 26.7 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 544 g
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars 7 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #168,984 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description


"Sarah Leavitt uses the medium of comics to tell her story with more economy and power than either words or pictures could muster by themselves. She brings a good eye for the telling detail--the small observations that reveal larger truths--to her memoir of a family in crisis. Tangles is the work of a perceptive, creative, and honest storyteller."--Brian Fies

About the Author

Sarah Leavitt writes both prose and comics. Her writing has appeared in Geist, The Globe and Mail, Vancouver Review, The Georgia Straight, and Xtra West. Leavitt has written short documentaries for Definitely Not the Opera on CBC Radio, and her non-fiction has appeared in a number of anthologies, including Nobody's Mother (Heritage 2006) and Beyond Forgetting: Poetry and Prose about Alzheimer's Disease (Kent State University Press 2009). She has an MFA in Creative Writing from UBC. Tangles is her first book.

Customer Reviews

3.7 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
A very harrowing series of vignettes in the progress of a terrible disease. The other book I read about Alzheimer's, Still Alice by Lisa Genova, doesn't take us all the way to the end and the tragic wasting away and death of a human being, so that part of this book was really rough. Tangles is told from the point of view of a family member left behind, the afflicted's daughter. Still Alice is told in first person format from the afflicted's point of view and is a very different experience, albeit still a terrifying one.

The "graphic" component of this story was mildly effective, I thought. The art style doesn't blow me away, but Leavitt has a talent for expressing ideas and emotions in images that did augment the story. Her facility with cartoony faces and bodies is limited--I think she is a writer first and illustrator a somewhat distant second. It is still a work that I can't imagine as narrative only, so for that reason I consider it a successful graphic non-fiction work.

This is not an easy read or even much of a coherent narrative. It is a series of illustrated events, random notes and memories and a loving portrait of the author's mother, all of which tells a real story with moments of humour and lots of sadness. Bring Kleenex.
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Format: Paperback
Tangles is equal parts celebration and lament, as much an anatomy of Alzheimer's as it is an intensely moving matremoir. Reading Tangles had me reliving many of the details of my mom's last years, and remembering the frustrations, the moments of fierce anger, the depressions, the sparks of humour, the exhaustion, and the closeness and caring which her slow regression and death brought to our family.

Alzheimer's is a disease of diminishment and indignity, and part of Sarah Leavitt's triumph is that she doesn't shy away from showing the darker parts of the process. Nor does she hide the dark snakes of depression, fear, and pettiness which attack her and other family members. She also shows how the disease often makes small children of patient and caregivers, and the immediacy and cartoon quality of her graphic narrative medium work wonderfully to reach the child in us all. Her telling has a vulnerability and a visceral impact which written text alone could not achieve.

As a graphic memoir, and one in which recognition and acceptance of the author's lesbian identity play a part, Leavitts book will inevitably be compared to Alison Bechdel's Fun Home. Midge Leavitt, though, was much more nurturing, much less conflicted than Bruce Bechdel; and consequently Tangles is much less dark than Fun Home. Both books pay tribute, but where Bechdel remembers her father to map herself Leavitt remembers her mother to grow and nurture. Unsurprisingly, both books can be seen as mirroring the respective parent described. Whereas the art and language of Fun Home is carefully crafted and highly polished, Tangles is rougher and looser in style, a garden, "tangled, but with spots of brightness.
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Format: Paperback
I found this impossible to put down, and I did tear up a few times. The pictures help explain the words. BUT, unlike with other graphic memoirs they don't really add a huge amount. You could just read the words and get pretty much the same thing out of the book as you do with the drawings. I am not a huge consumer of graphic memoirs but the other memorable one I read was Fun Home and it blew me away- the pictures in that case were about a third to a half of the message. I'd read a page, and then scour the drawings for every detail, sometimes even laughing or feeling sad purely because of something the drawings had revealed. With Tangles I was done with the pictures as soon as I'd finished reading the words, with a couple minor exceptions. There's not any additional information in the art. The art is simple and straightforward.
I think the art enhances the story by making the reader pause and reflect in a way they wouldn't if it was text-only. The drawings help express mood. It's definitely better WITH the drawings, and they're good drawings.
I guess my point is that I can't help feeling there was the potential for the art to add a lot more to the story than it did, which is why I am giving only three stars.
I haven't been touched by dementia of any kind so I can't speak about what this book could offer a family just discovering their own beloved relative has Alzheimer's. I imagine it might be helpful but I really don't know. Could I say it opened my mind? Meh... I guess not. My mind didn't really need to be opened on this subject. I always thought such illnesses were the utmost in tragedy, and my heart went out to the real person behind the crumbling ruins, and the scared childlike person they'd become, and their suffering relatives and friends, losing them slowly a bit at a time.
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Format: Paperback
I am grateful to the author for writing and illustrating this book. It rang true for me. While reading it I thought back to my own experience and was transported back to having my mom and the shared feeling of wanting to "soak her up when she was alive" (Sarah Leavitt).
Some remembered details made me laugh or become sad. So many experiences I had already forgotten. I thank the author for managing to make the book light enough given the subject matter, and for showing life as it is.
I was looking to read of a shared experience and not to have my heart reshattered, or to be educated. Just the right amount of highs and lows. This book delivered for me.
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