Tangles (graphic novel) by Sarah LeavittTangles: A Story about Alzheimer’s, My Mother and Me is a graphic novel by Vancouver author and artist, Sarah Leavitt. As the subtitle indicates, it’s the powerful and emotional (true) story of Midge Leavitt’s battle with Alzheimer’s and the effect on their family — specifically Sarah herself. Tangles is a memoir of Sarah’s experience and I think it is an important story to tell; while Alzheimer’s is undoubtedly difficult for the person living with the disease, it is equally hard on their family.

Tangles was a finalist for the 2010 Writers’ Trust of Canada Non-fiction Prize (the first graphic narrative to be a finalist in the category), was shortlisted for the 2011 Hubert Evans Non-Fiction Prize (BC Book Prizes), and has been listed in the Globe and Mail’s top 100 books of 2010.

In the introduction, Sarah Leavitt admits to a bad memory, and states “when my mother got Alzheimer’s disease, I knew I had to record what was happening to her and to our family.’’ Taking six years to complete, Tangles is Sarah’s first book and it is a raw, vivid, unforgiving, honest, humiliating, and yet compassionate, moving and humourous.

Combining simple illustrations with brutally honest narrative, Sarah shares the Leavitt family’s struggle with the symptoms, diagnosis, adapting and coping, and—inevitably—death. With a mix of childhood memories, significant events, and introspective narrative, Sarah takes the reader through each stage of Midge’s disease. The writing is very powerful and the sparse illustration is emotionally expressive. Tangles is not just a long and depressing story, but it certainly brought tears to my eyes more than once.

It was really beautiful to be granted the insight into Sarah’s relationship with her mother and her family: the love, dependency, independence, and pride was all immediately evident. This wasn’t just a memoir exploring Alzheimer’s effect on a family, it was a testament to the strength and beauty of Family.

Warning: this book may not be appropriate for extremely sensitive people or those coping with depression; it is extremely emotional.