“Many fine moments like this were to have their shadow.”

“Many fine moments like this were to have their shadow.”

I just finished reading Saturday by Ian McEwan. I can no longer remember what booklist I found it on but I know I came across the title several times. Cathy read it on the plane home in August and simply said, “Fascinating look into one day in a life, lots of detail.” It’s a pretty slow starter…all those details take a long time to get through. But it takes a surprising turn and picks up speed as the book progresses.

What I didn’t expect from this book was its insight into dementia. The mother of the main character is in a home for memory care and McEwan’s description is eerily accurate. I was thinking though that when Cathy read it in August it would have been a kind of anxiety producing look at the future and when I read it now in December it is a description of our everyday life.

Here are a couple of the passages I couldn’t resist underlining as I read:

“I’ve got plenty of them cups and saucers. So I can always go out with one of them.  But the thing is, the space between people is so tiny”—she brings up two wavering hands to show him a gap—“that there’s hardly enough space to squeeze through. There’s too much binding.” … Damage from the small-vessel clotting tends to accumulate in the white matter and destroy the mind’s connectivity. Along the way, well before the process is complete. Lily is able to deliver her rambling treatises, her nonsense monologues with touching seriousness. She doesn’t doubt herself at all. Nor does she think that he’s unable to follow her. … It pleases her if he nods and smiles, and chimes in from time to time. (page 166)

This journey we’re on is full of emotion, often from opposite ends of the emotional spectrum: simultaneously humorous and heartbreaking.

Mom is talking more and more about her parents and grandparents. And always as though she just finished a conversation with them though they’ve been gone more than twenty-five years. She is somewhat restless, asking if they (she and dad?) will be going home. Evidently this is also par for the course. Here’s another quote from McEwan:

“I’m sorry dear. I don’t have a room. I’m waiting to go home. I’m getting the bus.” … Having failed to remember its existence, Lily isn’t surprised to find herself in her room. She instantly forgets that she didn’t remember. (page 163 and 165)

Christmas is coming (did you notice?) and I am eagerly anticipating the festivities and celebrations but I also know each one will be touched by her joint presence and absence. The line I will remember most from the book is the title of this post: “Many fine moments like this were to have their shadow.”


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