Strange Relation: A Memoir of Marriage, Dementia, and Poetry / 204-page paperback / 5.5" x 8.5" / ISBN 978-1-58988-061-0 / Publication Date: February 2011
"[A] thoughtful and lucid tale of love, companionship, and heartbreaking illness." —Lydia Davis
In 2004 Rachel Hadas's husband, George Edwards, a composer and professor of music at Columbia University, was diagnosed with early-onset dementia at the age of sixty-one. Strange Relation is her account of "losing" George. Her narrative begins when George's illness can no longer be ignored, and ends in 2008 soon after his move to a dementia facility (when, after thirty years of marriage, she finds herself no longer living with her husband). Within the cloudy confines of those difficult years, years when reading and writing were an essential part of what kept her going, she "tried to keep track…tried to tell the truth."
"If only all doctors and nurses and social workers who care for the chronically ill could read this book. If only patients and family members stricken with such losses could receive what this book can give them. While Strange Relation relates one illness and the life of one family, it is also, poetically, about all illnesses, all families, all struggles, all living. The art achieves the dual life of the universal and the particular, marking it as timeless, making it for us all necessary."—Rita Charon, MD, PhD, Program in Narrative Medicine, Columbia University
"Rachel Hadas's own wonderfully resonant poems, along with the rich collection of verse and prose by other writers that she weaves into her story, clarify and illuminate over and over again this thoughtful and lucid tale of love, companionship, and heartbreaking illness—illness that, as she shows us so well, is at once frighteningly alien and also deeply a part of our unavoidable vulnerability as mortal beings. Beautifully written, totally engrossing, and very sad."—Lydia Davis
"Strange Relation is a deeply moving, deeply personal, beautifully written exploration of how the power of grief can be met with the power of literature, and how solace can be found in the space between them."—Frank Huyler
"A poignant memoir of love, creativity and human vulnerability. Rachel Hadas brings a poet's incisive eye to the labyrinth of dementia."—Danielle Ofri, MD, PhD, author of Medicine in Translation and Singular Intimacies
"Like an elegy, Strange Relation is about loss and grief. Like all elegies, it also memorializes and celebrates. Rachel Hadas, in the course of her personal narrative, cites accounts of dementia, in its social and personal meanings."—Robert Pinsky
"Brilliant and tough-minded, poignant but clear-headed, Rachel Hadas shines a steady light on her experience as the wife of an accomplished composer who, at a comparatively early age, descended into dementia. Strange Relation never sacrifices truth for easy answers. Instead, Hadas uses literature to chart a course through wrenching complexities. This lauded and exceptional poet shows how language itself, the very thing her husband loses, became her shield as she crossed the ravaged lands of decision-making, making new discoveries, new friends, and new sense of the world. Strange Relation snaps with bravery, intelligence, and Hadas' tart, candid wisdom."—Molly Peacock
"Strange Relation is a beautifully written and piercingly honest account of life with a brilliant man as he descends into dementia, in his sixties."—Reeve Lindbergh
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Rachel Hadas is Board of Governors Professor of English at Rutgers University in Newark. She is the author of many books, including The River of Forgetfulness, Laws, Indelible, and Halfway Down the Hall: New & Selected Poems. She co-edited the anthology The Greek Poets: Homer to the Present. She lives in Manhattan.