The Dragons of Alsace Farm by Laurie Lewis.
In need of his own redemption, Noah Carter finally confronts his childhood hero, the once-beloved uncle who betrayed him. Instead of vengeance, he offers forgiveness, also granting Uncle John a most curious request—for Noah to work on the ramshackle farm of Agnes Deveraux Keller, a French WWII survivor with dementia.
Despite all Agnes has lost, she still has much to teach Noah. But the pair’s unique friendship is threatened when Tayte, Agnes’s estranged granddaughter, arrives to claim a woman whose circumstances and abilities are far different from those of the grandmother she once knew.
Items hidden in Agnes’s attic raise painful questions about Tayte’s dead parents, steeling Tayte’s determination to save Agnes, even if it requires her to betray the very woman she came to save, and the secret her proud grandmother has guarded for seventy years.
The issue strains the fragile trust between Tayte and Noah, who now realizes Tayte is fighting her own secrets, her own dragons. Weighed down by past guilt and failures, he feels ill-equipped to help either woman, until he remembers Agnes’s lessons about courage and love. In order to save Agnes, the student must now become the teacher, helping Tayte heal—for Agnes’s sake, and for his.
It is a rare book that has the capacity to move me to tears and laughter, this book does both, occasionally at the same time. The complexity of the characters drawn by author Laurie Lewis can’t be overlooked. Each of them have issues with long held fears and an inability to trust. This author has the capacity to make them clearly visual to the reader, not, as some authors do by over-describing their physical appearances, but by allowing the reader the pleasure of seeing them through their actions and the marvelous exchanges of dialogue.
Noah, Tayte and the lovable Agnes share depths of pain, understanding and loss, in an interwoven delight of a story. The pervading sadness of Dementia could have been overwhelming, but Agnes’s character doesn’t allow for that type of maudlin reflection. I have watched a marvelous woman fall prey to Alzheimer’s disease, and it was devastating. To have our shared memories together forgotten, and to learn to be her new friend a harrowing lesson to learn. We all have that fear, that ‘what if’ looms large, and this author is to be congratulated on tackling those fears head on, and allowing her characters to grow within the framework of human frailty.
These characters rapidly become people we care about, and our own emotions are invested in the outcome of their shared lives. They are imperfect, flawed, and very very human. I enjoyed this book on so many levels. It left me feeling satisfied that we humans are indeed capable of unconditional love. I heartily recommend it to anyone looking for something to read that possesses both depth and a clear perception of the strength of the human spirit.