The Present Heart by Polly Young-Eisendrath
Polly Young-Eisendrath’s autobiographical book is a raw and honest telling of the challenges that one faces when a loved one is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. Polly’s third husband, Ed, who she affirms is the love of her life, is tragically diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s. Her book takes on the enormous topic of defining love, and offers insight into every type of relationship we experience in our lifetimes. Drawing on her career as a psychologist and her Buddhist practices, Young-Eisendrath finds illumination in her struggles with her husband’s quickly declining health.
What’s refreshing – and a little unnerving at first – about The Present Heart is Young-Eisendrath’s unapologetic tone. She is not afraid to clarify how difficult Ed’s illness has been on her or to address that other’s people’s well-meaning but sympathetic remarks can often have the opposite effect. She applies a balance of humorous and emotional situations as examples to convey her points. Her idea that romantic love must be a “two-way street” is fittingly argued and can easily lead to philosophical conversations amongst her readers. The one struggle with this book was getting through the psychological and Buddhist terms that would require more education in order to be better understood. Young-Eisendrath does an apt job of trying to define these terms and concepts, but they seem like they are very large ideas. Nonetheless, the main point of love in relationships is a familiarity with which every reader can identify. The book is well thought out and her argument is clear.
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