Susan Cushman, a successful blogger and active member of the literary community, will be the holding a signing of her book “Tangles and Plaques” starting at 5 p.m. this Friday at Off Square Books.
“Tangles and Plaques” is the candid tale of a mother-daughter duo facing the realities of Alzheimer’s. A brutally irreversible disease, Alzheimer’s steals a person’s memories and drastically changes every life it touches. This is a book about not only care but also taking care.
The story is particularly personal for Cushman because it is her own.
“I didn’t set out to write a book about my mother,” Cushman said. “Or Alzheimer’s. But when I began caregiving for her in 2007, I had just started a blog, so I wrote about our journey as it was happening. When Mom died in 2016, I had published 60 blog posts about each step of the journey, as I sold her car and house, moved her into assisted living and finally a nursing home. So this collection is a kind of ‘new epistolary,’ like the novels based on letters or journal entries.”
Detailing every step of her journey, she tackles this tough topic with an admirable amount of candidness; she holds no punches. She says she “did very little editing, wanting to keep the immediacy and the emotional impact of each visit with [her] mother.” Yet her ability to write on the sweet, albeit difficult, relationship between mother and daughter has the capacity to both warm and break the heart of every reader.
The title itself is the first indicator of the power behind this story. Tangles and plaques are the literal medical terms for the proteins found in the brain of an Alzheimer’s patient. However, the title can also be taken as a reference to the tangles formed in those individuals surrounding the disease and the emotional scars it leaves in its wake.
“The tangles and plaques aren’t only in our brains,” Cushman said. “But often in our relationships.”
Like any individual suffering through the effects of Alzheimer’s, Cushman does her best to focus on lighthearted, humorous moments when possible. By keeping the book’s tone conversational, she drives home the reality of the situation. Readers are able to get a glimpse of the raw wounds inflicted by Alzheimer’s and the heavy process of healing that follows.
When asked what she hopes her readers take away from this book, she said, “I hope my readers who are caregivers or ever have been will take away a commonality and empathy. There is no cure for Alzheimer’s. It is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States. More than 15 million people provide care to people with Alzheimer’s. I read lots of ‘self-help’ books, about everything from depression and eating disorders to dementia, but I’m not looking for a ‘fix.’ We can’t fix this, but we can find comfort from others who understand.”