On Vanishing
For fans of Atul Gawande’s Being Mortal, Eula Biss’s On Immunity, and Paul Kalanithi’s When Breath Becomes Air, On Vanishing offers an essential, empathic exploration of dementia, and in the process asks searching questions about what it means to face our own inevitable vanishingAn estimated 50 million people in the world suffer from dementia. Diseases such as Alzheimer’s erase parts of one’s memory but are also often said to erase the self. People don’t simply die from such diseases; they are imagined, in the clichés of our era, as vanishing in plain sight, fading away, or enduring a long goodbye. In On Vanishing, Lynn Casteel Harper, a Baptist minister and nursing home chaplain, investigates the myths and metaphors surrounding dementia and aging, addressing not only the indignities caused by the condition but also by the rhetoric surrounding it. Harper asks essential questions about the nature of our outsize fear of dementia, the stigma this fear may create, and what it might mean for us all to try to “vanish well.”Weaving together personal stories with theology, history, philosophy, literature, and science, Harper confronts our elemental fears of disappearance and death, drawing on her own experiences with people with dementia both in the U.S. health-care system and within her own family. In the course of unpacking her own stories and encounters—of leading a prayer group on a dementia unit; of meeting individuals dismissed as “already gone” and finding them still possessed of complex, vital inner lives; of witnessing her grandfather’s final years with Alzheimer’s and discovering her own heightened genetic risk of succumbing to the disease—Harper engages in an exploration of dementia that is unlike anything written before on the subject.Expanding our understanding of dementia beyond progressive vacancy and dread, On Vanishing makes room for beauty and hope, and opens a space in which we might start to consider better ways of caring for, and thinking about, our fellow human beings. It is a rich and startling work of nonfiction that reveals cognitive change as an essential aspect of what it means to be mortal.

On Vanishing Details

TitleOn Vanishing
Author
LanguageEnglish
ReleaseApr 14th, 2020
PublisherCatapult
Rating
GenreNonfiction, Autobiography, Memoir, Psychology, Science, Medical

On Vanishing Review

  • Caidyn (BW Reviews; he/him/his)
    January 1, 1970
    I received an ARC through Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review!This was a very good book about dementia. When I'm at my internship, an in-patient psychiatric facility, I work with older adults on the senior unit. Most people admitted are there for behavioral problems with dementia. Wandering, sundowning, aggression, sexual behaviors, etc. Honestly, I've probably seen it all. So, this book was a refreshing look at dementia and how the perspectives beat into us that dementia is awful and I received an ARC through Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review!This was a very good book about dementia. When I'm at my internship, an in-patient psychiatric facility, I work with older adults on the senior unit. Most people admitted are there for behavioral problems with dementia. Wandering, sundowning, aggression, sexual behaviors, etc. Honestly, I've probably seen it all. So, this book was a refreshing look at dementia and how the perspectives beat into us that dementia is awful and that the person who has the diagnosis is no longer the person you loved actually cause harm to that person. While they're very much alive, we pretend that they are already gone.It's part memoir and part writing about how dementia is compared with other progressive illnesses. It's very well-written and a fast read. They compare it to Atul Gawande's book Being Mortal, but it wasn't that for me. It was very good and a book, but it wasn't as impactful as that book was for me. I'd definitely recommend this book for people wanting to think differently about this diagnosis.
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  • Weston Durrwachter
    January 1, 1970
    I read this book because (1) the author is my wife's aunt, (2) I assumed this book would be helpful for me as I aspire to continue ministering as a hospital chaplain, and (3) my own grandmother has dementia. I'm giving this book 5 stars because it was beautifully written, well argued, inspiring, and so helpful for thinking more deeply and honestly about the issues related to dementia and our culture's responses to dementia. I would recommend this book to anyone, but I would especially recommend I read this book because (1) the author is my wife's aunt, (2) I assumed this book would be helpful for me as I aspire to continue ministering as a hospital chaplain, and (3) my own grandmother has dementia. I'm giving this book 5 stars because it was beautifully written, well argued, inspiring, and so helpful for thinking more deeply and honestly about the issues related to dementia and our culture's responses to dementia. I would recommend this book to anyone, but I would especially recommend it to fellow CPE students and anyone with a friend or family member who has dementia.
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  • Marin
    January 1, 1970
    A smart, cogent, and deeply felt exploration of life on with dementia, whether lived or witnessedan act of empathy and a powerful call for inclusion. A smart, cogent, and deeply felt exploration of life on with dementia, whether lived or witnessed—an act of empathy and a powerful call for inclusion.
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  • Chris S.
    January 1, 1970
    Have to be honest, this book was a lot more like a memoir than I expected. Perhaps because of that, I found the first half somewhat lackluster and jumbled, with some of the comparisons and lengthy metaphors seeming like stretches. However, I liked the second half much better than the first and felt that it seemed like it formed a more cohesive whole. Harper makes good arguments for a re-evaluation of how we see dementia and this is a good and necessary book, but since she's a minister, she does Have to be honest, this book was a lot more like a memoir than I expected. Perhaps because of that, I found the first half somewhat lackluster and jumbled, with some of the comparisons and lengthy metaphors seeming like stretches. However, I liked the second half much better than the first and felt that it seemed like it formed a more cohesive whole. Harper makes good arguments for a re-evaluation of how we see dementia and this is a good and necessary book, but since she's a minister, she does make a lot of Bible references. I came around to that eventually, and they are very thoughtful ways of looking at Christian scriptures, but if those aren't your thing, you might find this not quite up your alley. With that being said, she does take a good look at the experience of living with dementia and our cultural perceptions of it through a variety of disciplines, though there's definitely an emphasis on spirituality. I might have enjoyed something that looked at worldwide conceptions of dementia and was more expansive in scope a little better, but the concerns Harper lists do seem to primarily be with regards to the American health care system, so I suppose my expectations for this book didn't quite match what it attempted to do. I definitely found the last few chapters- chapters six through nine- to be especially strong and what led to me rating this four stars.
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  • Maeve Bolin
    January 1, 1970
    This book fits into so many categories: memoir, philosophy, guide book, and spirituality. My father was diagnosed with cognitive impairment in 2018, and through Lynn Casteel Harper's experiences, I was able to conceptualize many of his struggles; however, the greater impact comes through her shared acceptance that we are all approaching some form of cognitive decline that we must learn to accept and embrace. In order to be more fully human it is up to us to prepare for old age. Then we can be This book fits into so many categories: memoir, philosophy, guide book, and spirituality. My father was diagnosed with cognitive impairment in 2018, and through Lynn Casteel Harper's experiences, I was able to conceptualize many of his struggles; however, the greater impact comes through her shared acceptance that we are all approaching some form of cognitive decline that we must learn to accept and embrace. In order to be more fully human it is up to us to prepare for old age. Then we can be there for those who are vanishing while knowing how to respond when (not if) we have dementia. We owe it to our older generations and to our future selves to listen to what Casteel Harper has to say and to become more empathetic people in the process.
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  • Catapult
    January 1, 1970
    For fans of Atul Gawandes Being Mortal, Eula Bisss On Immunity, and Paul Kalanithis When Breath Becomes Air, On Vanishing offers an essential, empathic exploration of dementia, and in the process asks searching questions about what it means to face our own inevitable vanishing For fans of Atul Gawande’s Being Mortal, Eula Biss’s On Immunity, and Paul Kalanithi’s When Breath Becomes Air, On Vanishing offers an essential, empathic exploration of dementia, and in the process asks searching questions about what it means to face our own inevitable vanishing
    more
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