Do You Remember Me?

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

Anyone who has watched a loved one slowly fade away with Alzheimer’s Disease knows how cruel the disease can be, and how difficult life is for the family. But what if the sick person is a parent whom one does not love? How does one get through the challenge and the burden of caregiving if one cannot bring love to the task? Judith Levine, author of Do You Remember Me?: A Father, a Daughter, and a Search for the Self, attempts to think, rather than feel, her way through her father’s illness. As a professional writer, she confronts her situation through reading and writing, finding out everything she can about what science and philosophy have to say about how the brain works and who the self is.

Do You Remember Me? is a journal of sorts, moving chronologically through more than a decade after the first suspicion that Alzheimer’s is the reason for her father’s increasing confusion. Among heartbreaking scenes of weekly father-daughter outings, Levine weaves in family history going back over fifty years of her parents’ political activism, interviews with relatives and old friends, and research on the brain and dementia.

Levine is angry toward her father, after a lifetime of arguments and mutual stubbornness. As he fails and she begins to develop sympathy for him, she shifts the anger toward her mother, who after ten years of loyally tending her husband has taken a new lover, and her brother, who has been estranged from the father for many years. The bitter tone underlying the book can be overwhelming and uncomfortable, like overhearing a family quarrel at the next table. There are no easy answers in this book, no lights at the end of the tunnel, no Heavenly reward. This is a book to turn to for information and for truth, but not for hope.