On Vanishing: Mortality, Dementia, and What It Means to Disappear

On Vanishing: Mortality, Dementia, and What It Means to Disappear Details

For fans of Atul Gawande’s Being Mortal, Eula Biss’s On Immunity, and Paul Kalanithi’s When Breath Becomes Air, On Vanishing offers an essential, empathic exploration of dementia, and in the process asks searching questions about what it means to face our own inevitable vanishing

An estimated 50 million people in the world suffer from dementia. Diseases such as Alzheimer’s erase parts of one’s memory but are also often said to erase the self. People don’t simply die from such diseases; they are imagined, in the clichés of our era, as vanishing in plain sight, fading away, or enduring a long goodbye. In On Vanishing, Lynn Casteel Harper, a Baptist minister and nursing home chaplain, investigates the myths and metaphors surrounding dementia and aging, addressing not only the indignities caused by the condition but also by the rhetoric surrounding it. Harper asks essential questions about the nature of our outsize fear of dementia, the stigma this fear may create, and what it might mean for us all to try to “vanish well.”

Weaving together personal stories with theology, history, philosophy, literature, and science, Harper confronts our elemental fears of disappearance and death, drawing on her own experiences with people with dementia both in the U.S. health-care system and within her own family. In the course of unpacking her own stories and encounters—of leading a prayer group on a dementia unit; of meeting individuals dismissed as “already gone” and finding them still possessed of complex, vital inner lives; of witnessing her grandfather’s final years with Alzheimer’s and discovering her own heightened genetic risk of succumbing to the disease—Harper engages in an exploration of dementia that is unlike anything written before on the subject.

Expanding our understanding of dementia beyond progressive vacancy and dread, On Vanishing makes room for beauty and hope, and opens a space in which we might start to consider better ways of caring for, and thinking about, our fellow human beings. It is a rich and startling work of nonfiction that reveals cognitive change as an essential aspect of what it means to be mortal.

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Title:On Vanishing: Mortality, Dementia, and What It Means to Disappear
Edition Language:English
ISBN:9781948226288
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    On Vanishing: Mortality, Dementia, and What It Means to Disappear Reviews

  • etherealfire

    Thank you to Catapult Publishing for the opportunity to read and review this book. On Vanishing is part personal narrative as well as a humane and compassionate treatise on the treatment of patients s...

  • Caidyn (BW Reviews; he/him/his)

    I received an ARC through Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review!This was a very good book about dementia. When I'm at my internship, an in-patient psychiatric facility, I work with older adults o...

  • Weston Durrwachter

    I read this book because (1) the author is my wife's aunt, (2) I assumed this book would be helpful for me as I aspire to continue ministering as a hospital chaplain, and (3) my own grandmother has de...

  • Marin

    A smart, cogent, and deeply felt exploration of life on with dementia, whether lived or witnessed—an act of empathy and a powerful call for inclusion....

  • Wade Snowden

    I am conflicted on if this is a 4 or 5 star read - but that is not the point. This book equally reaffirmed all of my beliefs about dementia & mortality while also pushing me to a new & higher thinking...

  • Ankush Gk

    Made me think about how I perceive anything related to mental illness in others. How the stigmatized cultural environment shapes our thoughts on such matters. It is beautifully written about Dementia,...

  • Claire- Louise

    I read this book for some insight but didn’t feel I really got anything from it. ...

  • Chris S.

    Have to be honest, this book was a lot more like a memoir than I expected. Perhaps because of that, I found the first half somewhat lackluster and jumbled, with some of the comparisons and lengthy met...

  • Molly

    Unexpected wonder! This gets 5 stars for beautiful writing, a poet's imagination explaining one of life's greatest living tragedies-dementia, and the depth of thought and learning that supports a lovi...

  • Maeve Bolin

    This book fits into so many categories: memoir, philosophy, guide book, and spirituality. My father was diagnosed with cognitive impairment in 2018, and through Lynn Casteel Harper's experiences, I wa...