The little girl in the radiator is an award-winning book. A tale of love, loss and family; the touching, sometimes hilarious and occasionally heartbreaking story of a man's struggle to care for his mother after her diagnosis with Alzheimer's disease.
Martin Slevin's mum was a highly active, very intelligent and fiercely independent woman who ran her own business and ruled Martin and his father with a rod of iron. But after Martin's dad dies, her life crumbles, and she becomes listless and forgetful. Eventually she is diagnosed with Alzheimer's and Martin puts his own life on hold to care for her. Together they embark on a journey through the various stages of the condition; the destination is never in any doubt, but along the way there are lighter moments, as she shaves the dog's bottom, holds sing-songs with an imaginary Irish band and pins all of Martin's socks to the wall. And all the time, the question nags away at him, who is the little girl in the radiator, with whom his mum has urgent, whispered conversations each day.
Author: Martin Slevin
Publisher: Monday Books
Publication date: 2012
Awards:Chairman's Choice Award at the British Medical Association Book Awards 2013
This was a truly touching, sometimes funny, and very sad memoir.
When Martin's dad dies his mother Rose, is shortly after diagnosed with dementia. As their Consultant told them ' It's like rolling up a rug.' Rose slowly start to lose her short term memory and find herself regressing further and further back into her childhood.
Martin tries his hardest to keep his mother at home, even putting his own life on hold. He's recently separated and moves back into the family home. They foster an strange looking, badly behaved dog for a short time called Bruno, or is it Ben? or Boris? I have to say this part of the book had me stitches.
Sadly, it's not to long before he strain of the illness becomes apparent and Martin has no choice but to think about placing Rose into a home.
The eccentric behaviour of Rose is often funny and I'm sure that looking back at her life the family will remember these times with a bitter sweet fondness. The shocking state of some of our care / nursing homes for the elderly / vulnerable leave a big question mark over the people that run them. The first home that Rose is put into is a shambles to say the least. Thankfully she did find somewhere that as she said was rather like a grand hotel.
It was the peoples reactions to the disease that quite shocked me. When Rose wanders off the full community come together to locate her. Strangers she met in the street who Rose would engage in conversation with, as if she knew them, would play along with the game whilst others would squirm uncomfortably and others were nothing short of rude and obnoxious.
I am lucky enough not to have had to deal with Alzheimer's, it has so far not effected any of my family members and after reading this book I am very thankful for that. As Martin says in the last chapter of his book, "Dealing with a loved one who has Alzheimer's is rather like peeling back an onion with your bare hands; each time you tear away a layer, you find there in yet another one underneath, and the more you peel the layers away, and the closer you get to the core, the more it makes you want to cry.
This book was written back in 2012 and in recent years I have seen an increase in the awareness of Alzheimer's and I would like to think that things have improved since Martin's experience but sadly I fear that too much is still the same.
This a touching read and I would recommend this book.