By Steph Jagger — Flatiron Books, 2022
Steph Jagger embraces a quest like no other as she takes her 70–year-old mother, Sheila—recently diagnosed with Alzheimer’s—on a camping trip through the US national parks. Jagger is no stranger to the heartbreak of this disease—her maternal grandmother also had dementia at the end of her life. Jagger can’t help but wonder if she too will suffer this horrible fate. In part, that’s why she understands the time sensitivity and necessity of this trip. It’s a monumental undertaking, for certain, but Jagger believes she owes herself the chance to more deeply connect and learn who her mother truly is before Sheila is lost to her. Together, they hike and camp as they did when Steph was younger. They lie under the stars or see Old Faithful on horseback when words fail them, as they often do. Sheila can navigate trails but can’t always remember where she is or with whom; sometimes, her memory loss seems insignificant, but when asked about her favorite memories, she comes up short. On the other hand, Jagger’s poetic way with imagery and emotion often leaves the reader in awe. This memoir illuminates the complexity, grief and beauty of mother-daughter relationships while appreciating the sacred power of Mother Nature. It’s heartbreaking in the best possible way.