Book Reviews

New York Times, “In ‘Memory’s Last Breath,’ Remembering Life, Before It’s Too Late.” (6/22/17)

Washington Post, “When dementia came on at age 61, she began writing about it.” (6/17/17)

Kirkus Reviews, Starred Review. (6/13/2017)

Booklist, Starred Review. (6/2017)

Publishers Weekly, Starred Review. (3/27/2017)

Shelfawareness, “Book Review: Health and Medicine.” (6/20/2017)

Winnipeg Free Press, Douglas J. Johnston, “Writer’s Dementia Chronicle Compelling.” (6/30/17)

Dayton Daily News, “THE BOOK NOOK: A trio of intense memoirs that go straight to the heart.” (7/1/2017)

Columbus Dispatch, “Book Review: MEMORY’S LAST BREATH chronicles life with dementia.” (7/2/2017)

Alzheimers.net, “MEMORY’S LAST BREATH Memoir Release.” (6/28/17)

WellRead Book of the Week (6/19/17-6/25/17)

 

Print Interviews

Shelfawareness, “The Writer’s Life. (6/20/2017)

The Salt Lake Tribune, “Meet the Utah writer whose field notes on dementia became an act of self-preservation.” (6/16/17)

 

TV/Video Interviews

The Today Show, Maria Shriver: “Former professor on talking about her dementia: ‘It has made my life richer.’” (7/10/2017)

WellRead TV, Elisa Jaffe. (7/17)
 
Writing Fun, YouTube: Michelle Dunton, “Memory’s Last Breath with Gerda Saunders.” (7/25/17)

 

Radio Interviews

NPR Weekend Edition, Melissa Block: “In ‘Memory’s Last Breath’ An Academic Confronts Dementia.” (6/17/17)

Canada Broadcasting Corporation, The Sunday Edition. (8/6/2017)

NPR WNYC, Marry Harris, guest host on the Leonard Lopate show: “What’s It Like to Have Dementia.”

NPR Utah RadioWest, broadcast interview with Doug Fabrizio. (6/2017)

Kirkus Reviews, podcast interview: Megan Labrise on Fully Booked. Gerda’s interview starts 23 minutes into the podcast.

Cape Talk Radio (South Africa), radio interview with Melanie Rice: “Health and Wellness: South-African born author Gerda Saunders pens book about living with dementia.”

BYU Radio, podcast, “Top of Mind with Julie Rose.” (6/30/2017)

Blacksite, podcast, Dan Strong. (7/5/2017)

Caregiver SOS, podcast—link forthcoming

 

Book Excerpts

Slate, excerpt from MEMORY’S LAST BREATH: “Who Am I Wearing? Fashion adventures, and misadventures, while living with dementia.” (6/2017)

LitHub, “Field Notes from My Dementia: Gerda Saunders on Iris Murdoch, Memory Loss, and Leaving a Record.” (6/22/17)

Ocean State Review—link forthcoming

 

RadioWest Film Series

Gerda”: In 2010, Gerda Saunders learned that she has dementia. She was 61 years old at the time, and a professor at the University of Utah who was already recognizing symptoms in herself. This short film is the first in a series of portraits about Gerda and the family and friends that surround her with love. 

Gerda: The Body that Is Left”: When the time is right, Gerda Saunders is going to take her own life. Gerda has a progressive form of dementia and we’ve been following her during this process. Of course, identifying the right time is going to be difficult, but she knows her family will support her when she makes the call. Life is over, she told us, when you stop having the ability to make your mark in the world. This is the second film in our series with Gerda.

Gerda: All Downhill from There”: Gerda has progressive dementia, and she’s been letting us follow her along the way. Recently, we went with Gerda and her husband to the doctor for her latest evaluation, a series of memory tests. The results gave her a sense of urgency, and oddly, relief. As Gerda told us, “I’m really not making this up.” This is the third film in our series with Gerda.

Gerda: Dementia Field Notes”: Gerda Saunders has a fabulous sense of style. She also has a progressive form of dementia, and lately she’s been asking herself whether all this effort she’s putting into her appearance will be worth it once she can no longer manage it herself. She documents this and other experiences in what she calls her Field Notes on Dementia. This is the fourth film in our series with Gerda.

 

What People Are Saying

The last chapter is stunning in both senses of the word, gorgeous and shocking. Saunders’s awareness of her own mortality has turned her into an omniscient eye. She imagines the fate of the universe as it unspools — the sun becoming a black dwarf, the Andromeda Galaxy merging with the Milky Way. How she’ll miss it. “I do not want,” she writes, “to go away.” — New York Times

“The book is remarkable not only for its fiercely honest, sometimes-poetic portrayal of mental decline, but also for the way the author effectively celebrates ‘the magisteria of a mind’…. A courageous, richly textured, and unsparing memoir.”—Kirkus Reviews, starred review 

Saunders writes bravely about her early-onset dementia diagnosis, and nicely bridges the intensely personal experience of her failing mind with examinations of neurological science. Her discussion of whether and when to pursue assisted suicide is smart and does not diminish the hopeful voice of a self-described “Doña Quixote” as she fights her mental descent with dignity. Publishers Weekly Starred Review

Gerda Saunders gives the reader an intimate, revealing account of living with dementia. [She] approaches some of the most difficult questions a human being can face with clarity and wisdom. MEMORY’S LAST BREATH somehow transmutes “bottomless dread” into remarkable insight. —Shelfawareness 

“Saunders’ own story isn’t over, and that’s part of its poignancy…. Her book is a tribute to the value of life.”—Columbus Dispatch

In Memory’s Last Breath, “[Saunders] approaches the subject, her own mind, with brilliance and not the slightest touch of self-pity…. This memoir is utterly compelling.” —Dayton Daily News

Memory’s Last Breath is a testament to perseverance, a weaving together of past and present experiences and an exploration of a changing identity. Memory’s Last Breath shows that there can be life, joy and accomplishments after a dementia diagnosis.—Alzheimers.net

Memory’s Last Breath “ (with its astonishing subtitle: “Field Notes on My Dementia”)…blends meditations on memory and identity with brain science, rooted by the writer’s anthropologic jottings of daily misadventures from her befuddled brain.” —The Salt Lake Tribune

 “This courageous and singular book describes both the indignities inscribed in the erosion of memory and the surprising grace to be found in that experience. At once observer and subject, Gerda Saunders demonstrates how a powerful intellect can remain undiminished even as other mental capacities are compromised. Her book’s lessons in dignity will be invaluable to anyone facing the complex meanings of dementia.” Andrew Solomon, National Book Award-winning author of The Noonday Demon and Far from the Tree 

“[A] deeply emotional and humbling memoir…a work of breathtaking defiance.” – Booklist, starred review

“The abrupt loss of everyday memory due to brain injury is swiftly and seriously unsettling. Its slower, subtle decline, the hallmark of dementia, provides time for introspection on its troubling trajectory. Gerda Saunders has given us a window into that chilling, yet poignant, psychological reality. Memory’s Last Breath is personal, lucid, and inspiring.” Dr. Michael Gazzaniga, author of Tales from Both Sides of the Brain: A Life in Neuroscience 

“Navigating the onset of her own dementia with intelligence and charm, Gerda Saunders has written an engaging mélange of reflection, family history and quest. Memory’s Last Breath is a surprising and subtly triumphant contribution to the literature of recollection.” Honor Moore, author of The Bishop’s Daughter 

“Saunders…writes bravely about her early-onset dementia diagnosis, and nicely bridges the intensely personal experience of her failing mind with examinations of neurological science…. Her evocative writing shows her to be a researcher and craftswoman.” – Publishers Weekly

“The extraordinary order exerted here, the Herculean effort at reconstruction, and the great erudition on display all add up to something like a miracle in light of the unraveling so powerfully evoked in the “field notes.” Against the backdrop of several affecting stories—a family’s history, a romance that leads to a lifelong love, and the evolution of an absorbing consciousness—we encounter the heroic grace with which the author meets her fate head on. Saunders’ assertion of will in the face of oblivion takes on a lyrical grandeur as it heads toward its gorgeous conclusion, with shades of Molly Bloom’s emphatic affirmations to close out Ulysses.” – Matthew Thomas, New York Times bestselling author of We Are Not Ourselves

“Gerda Saunders’ Memory’s Last Breath is not only a how-to manual for navigating the emotional and physiological terrain of dementia—an illness that effects the daily lives and hopes of millions—but a highly compelling account of the life of the mind, its developments, repetitions, omissions, and flourishes. Through eloquent, unwavering prose, Saunders guides us through the horrors and humors of an illness that is slowly erasing her mental and physical memory; her insights are lessons in longevity. Above all things, Memory’s Last Breath is indelible—a testament to the capacity of language both in a writer’s life and a reader’s.”
Ann Neumann, author of The Good Death for Beacon