Book Reviews

Book Review By Desley Polmear- Author

It has been sometime since I have read such an inspiring book. It touched my heart and soul.  It brought me to tears of laughter as well as sadness.

Sharon Snir found new and varied ways to connect with her mother, whose life prior to dementia revolved around socialising, entertaining, and often being the centre of attention. She was able to lovingly make the shift required to maintain and recreate her relationship with a mother who now had dementia.

As Alzheimer’s dissolved the layers of social etiquette and external appearance once so important to Lily, we see her soul now free to shine bright and clear. 

Throughout the book we feel the unfaltering devotion and love from her husband of 55 years, Lionel and two dedicated daughters and their families. 

This truly is a well written book that explores the strength of the human spirit. Music was a way to Lily's heart and soul as it is with us all.  Lily's dementia can in some ways be seen as a gift that healed and strengthened the family bonds. This read is a reminder about compassion, love, change and acceptance.
They say that the eyes are the windows to the Soul and the writer proves this with her insight, persistence, touch, love and music.   Lily needed to be heard and validated and once acknowledged she opened up like a blossoming rose. Reading the book made me think about life and love and how easily it is to get caught up in material things and selfishness.

 It also reminded me how important it is to live in the Now.  The present moment is where Lily lives so that is her gift to us all. 

Book Review by Isabel Benton -Editor

I enjoyed your book immensely. Thank you for putting it out into the world. What struck me the most was how full of love it was. I want to say it felt heavy with love, but of course, 'heavy' is the wrong word. Can it be heavy with love in a light way? Perhaps, because for me, the words became a physical thing in the world, and holding your book felt like cradling something very beautiful and very profound. It was easy to read (a hard thing for a writer to do) and I'm sure it will be a comfort and inspiration for those dealing with dementia, both the sufferers and the carers. But I also think your book goes beyond its subject matter to something elemental, something that is at the transformative heart of the human experience: how to love despite everything, how to love purely, simply how to LOVE. This is what moved me as I read, and this is what brought tears.

Sun Herald 11/07/2010
 By: Theo Chapman Section: Memoir

Sharon Snir's book about her mother's dementia simultaneously demystifies the condition and provides practical advice. Even if no one in your immediate circle of friends is showing signs of dementia, the fact is that a quarter of the people over the age of 85 have the condition. The lessons Snir wants to pass on are that dementia doesn't have to destroy families; especially if they ask for help early and that the memory loss that characterises the condition isn't universally bad. In Snir's case Alzheimer's gave her the loving and attentive mother she'd always wanted. This is an unexpectedly uplifting book.


ALZHEIMER'S is such a scary word. It is the most common form of dementia, and dementia is frightening; frightening because it signifies a loss of control and independence, and frightening because it is incurable, degenerative and terminal. It is frightening because it opens the door wide on a whole other world for sufferers and carers.

Figures show that one in 25 Australians over 60 suffer Alzheimer's, and that number is predicted to increase rapidly.

Sharon Snir has written a lovely book about her family's experiences of Alzheimer's. Yes, there is such a thing as a lovely book about Alzheimer's.

From the beginnings when her mother first began to forget things, to the creeping fear and devastation of "diagnosis", Sharon writes with a determination and tenderness that is remarkable.

Memory loss, confusion, irritability, mood swings and language breakdown are hurdles Sharon and her family have to jump, each one more difficult than the one preceding it.

There is a definite sense of frustration at the lack of understanding and training given to those in the medical professions who deal with Alzheimer's patients.

Honest, upfront and wonderfully warm, Sharon discovers that losing one mother gives her an opportunity to know the "other" mother she'd hoped for.

Alzheimer's, it seems, is a disease that peels off lifetimes of affectations and habits, revealing the core person in their pure, natural state. There was little else left of Sharon's mother but love (one cannot help but wonder if others may find less delightful end results.)

There's not really a happy ending, but for every Alzheimer's sufferer treated with kindness instead of ignorance, Sharon will have been successful.

This is the kind of book that makes the reader better off for having read it. 


Looking for Lionel: How I Lost and Found My Mother through Dementia by Sharon Snir Published 15 March, 2010  

looking-for-lionel When gestalt therapist Sharon Snir's mother Lily was diagnosed with dementia, her family experienced the usual emotions–fear of the future, grief at what was being lost and embarrassment as Lily's memory and inhibitions fell away. Snir questioned whether it had to be that way. Her very personal book, Looking for Lionel, focusses less on disease and loss than on changing relationships–how to communicate with and care for a loved one as they move through the stages of dementia. Not all readers will embrace Snir's assertions that 'dementia is the opportunity to move from conditional to unconditional love' or 'a transition from being attached to the material world to reconnecting to their soul'. However, Snir's approach is also hugely practical, advising readers on how to enter their loved one's new world where the present time is all, to communicate within boundaries that the dementia sufferer can understand and enjoy, and how, on a good day, to have fun together. Looking for Lionel will be useful for practitioners and staff working with dementia patients, as well as friends and family. Snir's simple but incisive prose is both accessible and touching; she clearly understands the illness, and reminds readers that love has many faces. 


Dementia peeled away layers of how things should and should not be. It peeled away the surface that was concerned only with appearance. Over time it revealed someone I had never really met. Someone pure and sweet and filled with innocent gratitude. In the end, all that was left of Lily was love. How ironic that dementia gave me the mother I had always wanted. With a growing number of people in Australia suffering from dementia, there is a good chance that all of us are going to have a family member, a friend or at least an acquaintance who suffers from the disease at some point in or lifetime. It is a diagnosis which cares most people, and an illness which affects everyone in the life of the sufferer.

Looking for Lionel-How I Lost and Found My Mother through Dementia is both a personal memoir of one family's journey through dementia and a wonderful aid for the families and carers of other sufferers. With gentle honesty author Sharon Snir tells of the highs and incredible lows of her own family's experiences, as well as sharing first hand experiences from others who she has spoken with, and offering gentle guidance based on those experiences, for others in similar situations.

This is an important and touching book whose ultimate message is positive.

Lionel, Lily, love, laughter


27 MAR 10 @ 01:12AM BY KAT ADAMSKI

MOMENT TO CHERISH: Sharon Snir has written a book about her parents.Picture:PAUL MELVILLE -PO819908

LEARNING about dementia has taken Sharon Snir on a journey of laughter and tears.

She grew up watching her parents Lionel and Lily live the good life, travelling abroad and mingling with Dick van Dyke, Don Lane, Morrie Amsterdam and Roger Miller.

"They were a passionate couple and adored being with each other," Snir, of East Lindfield, said.

But 13 years ago Sharon and her sister Donna noticed that their mother couldn't remember what they had been talking about. They would tell Lily a story and five minutes later she would ask the same question.

"Initially we were confused and for a long time we didn't have the courage to put a word to it," Snir said.

"But our mother had Alzheimer's (disease) and my father was her sole carer for 13 years. And he also used to cover for her, whispering in her ear the name of the person she was talking to.

"Being a social person, Lily could fake her insanity so well."

Lily had two types of dementia – a vascular dementia as well as Alzheimer's – and her old life faded into the past.

But Snir found strength and inspiration in this newfound understanding of her mother.

She has chronicled the journey in a memoir, Looking for Lionel – How I Lost and Found My Mother Through Dementia.

"This book chose me to write it, even though it was a chaotic process," Snir, 56, said. "I came to realise that dementia had given me the mother I had always wanted because she wasn't always there for us when we were growing up.

"My parents have been married for 57 years and they used to spend a lot of their time travelling without us.

"Having dementia revealed a side of Lily I had never really met – all that was left of her was love."

The warm and insightful memoir tells how dementia crept unannounced into Snir's family and left them struggling with the unknown. However, Snir was keen to explode some of the myths surrounding dementia.

"It is not a fate worse than death, you can find moments to cherish," she said.

An early childhood educator who retrained as a psychologist, Snir practiced as a clinical psychotherapist for the past 17 years but was always writing.

She said there were many how-to books on the subject but not one on "how to listen to your heart to someone who has dementia".

"My book is profoundly personal," she said. "I will never forget when my mum went into a nursing home two years ago and had to leave my father, who is 92 and fiercely independent.

"He still works as a medical consultant and I don't know too many 92-year-olds still drawing a wage, plus he brags about having 900 friends on Facebook.

"When you get to 92, so much of your life is about the memories and he visits Lily more for him than her.

"He gives her a big hug and they have coffee and cake together, but she has no idea what 'husband' means anymore.

"Everything she loves has become Lionel – she even calls me Lionel, and Donna is Lionel, too."

Looking for Lionel – How I Lost and Found My Mother Through Dementia is published by Allen and Unwin.




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