The Wide Circumference of Love

Who do you become when your memory disappears? How do you continue loving and supporting your spouse when Alzheimer's disease changes that person into a stranger? Marita Golden (After) explores these questions and others in The Wide Circumference of Love, which traces the arc of one African American family through the triumphs and tragedies that compose a life.

As the well-respected founder of a Washington, D.C., architectural firm, Gregory Tate has formed a career designing buildings, but when he is diagnosed with early-onset dementia at age 68, his world crumbles. His devoted wife, Diane, a family court judge, struggles with the stress of being her husband's primary caregiver, but is indecisive about placing him in an assisted living facility, where he eventually falls in love with another patient. Their grown children have differing responses to their father's condition: Lauren becomes immersed in the family business while Sean remains distant. Gregory's illness evokes comparisons to his father's battle with Alzheimer's disease as Diane becomes consumed with unresolved childhood issues, particularly a horrific crime that shattered her family.

Golden takes a frank and authentic approach to dementia's relentless and all-encompassing nature--losing one's dignity, forgetting loved ones' names, bewildering personality changes, disappearing friends--while also calling attention to the increased prevalence of Alzheimer's in the African American community. Indeed, any one of these problems and stories could be the plot of a separate novel, but Golden connects them seamlessly and compassionately, treating each with the prismatic complexity that defines family crises. In doing so, she makes each character's past an integral part of their present, as well as their impetus to move forward into a new and unexpected future. --Melissa Firman, writer, editor and blogger at

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