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Book provides poignant first-person look at Alzheimer's disease


This is the cover of "On Pluto: Inside the Mind of Alzheimer's" by Greg O'Brien. The book is reviewed by Agostino Bono. (CNS)

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"On Pluto: Inside the Mind of Alzheimer's" by Greg O'Brien. Codfish Press (Brewster, Mass.). 187 pp., $15.95.

A book about a man's agonizing descent into Alzheimer's disease could easily be steeped in negativity.

Yet in "On Pluto," Greg O'Brien has poignantly chronicled a tragedy happening. It's sad and joyful; depressing and uplifting; tragic and touching. O'Brien clearly expresses his rage -- often using the "F-word" -- at the dripping away of his brain's power and memory, but he still has enough left to recall the good things in his life.

Tucked into O'Brien's narrative is a subtle, nonpolemical account of how faith nurtured in a large Irish-American Catholic family has helped three generations solidify to cope with the dementia in some of its members. "We've got your back," the younger generation often tells the elders.

O'Brien was diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer's when he was 61 and wrote the book while his memory still functioned, even if in slow-motion. He combines factual information about Alzheimer's with his practical experiences of living with the disease.

"My brain was once a file cabinet, carefully arranged in categories, but at night as I sleep, it's as if someone has ransacked the files, dumping everything unto a cluttered floor," he writes.

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