Jan’s Story by Barry Petersen starts out as a love letter to the author’s wife. It is heart-warming to hear his unabashed adoration for his wife, Jan, who suffers from Early Onset Alzheimer’s. The first part of this memoir really is an ode to their early shared life. However, as it progresses, it really is about Barry and not Jan. It is a first-hand account of what it feels like to be the spouse of someone with this horrible disease; it would be more accurately titled Barry’s Story. It meanders a bit and is sometimes messy its timeline, but the words clearly flow from the author’s heart.
Mr. Petersen is to be lauded for his raw, unfiltered honesty in sharing his experience; it seems as if he held nothing back from the reader, regardless of how personal it might be–or how controversial. The last part of the book perhaps wades into what feels like situational ethics and self-justification, but the author’s intent was probably explanation. Readers may not agree with Barry’s path, but sometimes with this disease it feels like there are no good or right choices.
This is an important book to add to the lexicon of required reading when it comes to Alzheimer’s. Still Alice was fictional from the viewpoint of the afflicted; Jan’s Story is memoir from the viewpoint of the spouse.
Profanity/Language: 2 religious exclamations; 11 mild obscenities.
Violence/Gore: References to some of war events author covered as a news correspondent (brief descriptions); reports of journalist killed, kidnapped; reference to 2001 Dan Pearl execution; story about a lacrosse injury; author recalls all the bodies seen after 2004 tsunami (brief description); contemplation of suicide; brief description of how a spouse died in an accident; brief report of violence/bodies in Rawanda.
Sex/Nudity: A few sexual references to adultery, sex life, intimacy, loss of intimacy, loss of lover, how the author should “find a woman”; 3 page discussion/explanation about how Alzheimer’s affects sex/love life; individual reports inability to have an orgasm; unmarried adults have sex (non-descriptive) with the focus of the passage being on feelings/discussion post-sex; individual removes all clothing and lies on bed next to spouse.
Mature Subject Matter:
Alzheimer’s, death of a spouse, suicide, marital sexual relations, marital infidelity.
Alcohol / Drug Use:
Adult’s drink and smoke; individual drinks more as he becomes stressed.