Book review Matchbox Memories by Ray Kingfisher
Matchbox Memories is the story of an ordinary family with secrets. Ian has to leave his wife and young boys in the south east to go to Cumbria to look after the Aunt who brought him up while his uncle is in hospital. They have been Ian's parents since he was orphaned at five years old but he has never called them Mum and Dad. His mother is now suffering from Alzheimer's and needs constant supervision. Ian's siblings each have difficult situations in their own lives which they have been keeping secret from the rest of the family. As Ian lives with his mother for a week, caring for her while his father is in hospital, he learns much more about her and in moments of lucidity she hints at secrets from the past that he never knew.
The book is well written as it develops each member of the family as a rounded character. It deals sensitively and humorously with Alzheimer's and the bizarre behaviour and conversations that can take place, especially the continuous repetition of the same questions. Yet throughout this the author always treats the sufferer of the condition with dignity and respect. Ray Kingfisher must have either direct experience of living with Alzheimer's patients or has studied his subject carefully because this is one of the most perceptive fictional accounts that I have read. It accords with my experience of those with the condition and their carers. He portrays accurately the difficulties of being a carer of someone with serious memory loss. Alzheimer's could be a depressing subject matter but this is an uplifting book.
The novel has a moral about the importance of being open in family relationships because of the power of secrets to undermine trust. At the end of the novel the family members reveal to each other the hidden parts of their lives. There is a feeling of release of tension as they each begin to understand the burdens that the others had been carrying alone. There were so many secrets to emerge that I half wished for one member of the family who was not hiding a guilty secret!
It is a very enjoyable read with a warm bitter-sweet humour running through it. I recommend it highly.