Walking the Hard Road: a book review

Alzheimer’s is a hard road to travel, for both the afflicted and their loved ones. When Martha Maddux was diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s at the age of fifty (in Sept. 1997), her and her husband Carlen Maddux were both heart broken. Martha, up to that point, had been a spirited mother and civic activist, passionate and confident. The disease would take its toll on her; yet Carlen was determined to be her anchor and uphold her through this new and trying season of their time together. A Path Revealed shares Carlen’s story, of walking alongside Martha, the spiritual resources that sustained them and the healing they both experienced as a consequence of her long illness (Martha passed away in June, 2014).

a-path-revealedThis is a spiritual memoir. We hear about how God met Martha and Carlen in the land of Alzheimer’s. Their path is both contemplative and the charismatic, and they are supported by a web of friends and mentors along the way. Early on in their journey, a Presbyterian pastor/mentor suggests Carlen and Martha go to a Catholic retreat center. There, Carlen learns the comfort that comes from meeting God through contemplative prayer. Slong the way he also hears God and experiences his presence at healing conferences, retreat centers, Thomas Merton’s old cabin, nursing homes, hospital rooms, and on a trip to Australia. Martha and Carlen both are healed of bitterness and resentment harbored toward their fathers. For Carlen this came through an experience of inner healing of past memories through prayer.  He also forgives Martha’s father for past abuse.  His healing and contemplative life clears the way for Carlen to experience a deeper sense of God’s presence and love. Martha too experiences the affirmation of God’s presence to her through  a prophetic word of an Episcopalian healing minister.

Carlen shares his journey as encouragement for others who likewise find themselves navigating difficult paths because of sickness or crisis.  There is no formula here. Carlen and Martha’s story is not mappable on anyone elses, but there is a gracious wisdom hard one. He shares the resources, and faithful confidence that comes from one who has walked the hard road and can now help others on their way.

Carlen and Martha’s story made me think of another couple I know who are facing down Alzheimer’s. Like Carlen and Martha, their story is marked by small victories, good friends and God’s presence with them. I give this book four stars and recommend it especially for those who are navigating Alzheimer’s or other difficult experiences.

Note: I recieved a copy of this book from Paraclete Press in exchange for my honest review.

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