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Five new memoirs chart the divergent ways of dealing with the grim facts of family life.Daphne Uviller
[FINAL Edition]
The Washington Post - Washington, D.C.
Subjects: Nonfiction; Autobiographies; Books-titles -- -Multiple review
Author: Uviller, Daphne
Date: May 23, 2004
Start Page: T.13
Section: BOOK WORLD

Plodding prose bogs down the travel portion of the book; [Nicholas Sparks]'s descriptions of exotic locales have all the flair of encyclopedia entries. His impression of Machu Picchu: "It was the kind of place that one should experience, not simply visit." The reader wonders what made the brothers think that an all-baggage-handled, on-the- bus-off-the-bus, we'll-set-up-a-satellite-feed-so-you-don't-miss- the-Super-Bowl tour would allow time for reflection. Certainly, [Micah] has no business criticizing fellow travelers for lazing on the beach when they could opt for snorkeling: "Some people just don't know how to have fun. They aren't even willing to try." Surprisingly, despite stilted dialogue and a saccharine tone, Three Weeks manages to be a moving tale of familial solidarity -- Sparks's side story of commitment to ameliorating his son's autism is downright inspiring.

The blood-chilling accounts of [Paul Raeburn] pleading with his 11-year- old son to get off the train tracks or of coming home to find his eighth-grade daughter drunk, enraged, her arms and wrists sliced, are no more horrifying than the details of the insurance companies' systematic obstruction of [Alex] and [Alicia]'s treatment. Raeburn's mental health plan covered a lifetime total of 90 days hospitalization per child; three days after admission to the hospital, Alicia's therapist was forced to start planning her release.

The twist to Judith Levine's Do You Remember Me? A Father, a Daughter, and a Search for the Self (Free Press, $26), an exhaustive account of her father's descent into Alzheimer's, is that she has, by her own admission, never loved her father. An arrogant, solipsistic man, Stan Levine communicated with her entirely through fights: "He can be artfully angry, sensuously angry, wittily angry, coolly and warmly angry; he even can seem contentedly angry." Levine aims to discover the self, which "cannot exist but in relationship" and whose "demise cannot be accomplished by a brain disease alone." It is as challenging a task as any writer has ever set, and Levine, a dazzling wordsmith, finds her answers in anthropological texts, psychological studies, Cartesian philosophy and social and medical history. But all her research can't cover the memoir's glaring omission: the author's emotional reaction to her grueling situation.

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