Tangles: A story about Alzheimer’s, my mother, and me

by Sarah Leavitt
September 2010
9 x 10 paper 120 pages
ISBN 978-1-55111-117-9
CDN $23.95

BUY Tangles NOW!

Finalist for the 2010 Writers’ Trust Non-Fiction Prize
Included in The Globe and Mail‘s Top 100 Books of 2010
Winner of the 2011 CBC Bookie Award for Best Comic or Graphic Novel
Finalist for the 2011 Alberta Readers’ Choice Award
Finalist for the 2011 Hubert Evans Non-Fiction Prize

What do you do when your outspoken, passionate, and quick-witted mother starts fading into a forgetful, fearful woman? In this powerful graphic memoir, Sarah Leavitt reveals how Alzheimer’s disease transformed her mother Midge—and her family—forever.

In spare black and white drawings and clear, candid prose, Sarah shares her family’s journey through a harrowing range of emotions—shock, denial, hope, anger, frustration—all the while learning to cope, and managing to find moments of happiness. Midge, a Harvard-educated intellectual, struggles to comprehend the simplest words; Sarah’s father Rob slowly adapts to his new role as full-time caretaker, but still finds time for word-play and poetry with his wife; Sarah and her sister Hannah argue, laugh, and grieve together as they join forces to help Midge get to sleep, rage about family friends who have disappeared, or collapse in tears at the end of a heartbreaking day.

Tangles provides a window on the complexity of Alzheimer’s disease, and gradually opens a knot of moments, memories, and dreams to reveal a bond between a mother and a daughter that will never come apart.

Download a Reading Guide for this book!



“Says Leavitt, “Our parents taught us, as very young children, that language, words, and books belonged to us, that they were exciting and powerful.” Pairing words with simply drawn, evocative line art, Leavitt has crafted a glowing, heart-wrenching memorial to the woman who gave her such a gift. Useful for anyone with an Alzheimer’s patient among family or friends, for health-care professionals, and for graphic arts programs as an example of how simple art can tell a powerful story. So far, the only published Alzheimer’s-related graphic novel—and highly recommended.” — Library Journal

“Not only a spot-on portrait of the dark comedy and vast sadness that Alzheimer’s contains, the book is a fitting tribute to Leavitt’s mom.” — Vanity Fair

Brimming with humility and insight, Leavitt proves herself a skilled and unflinching memoirist. Her spare, evocative illustrations and the tender restraint of her prose will leave you breathless, heartbroken and profoundly grateful.
Nancy Lee, author of Dead Girls

Sarah Leavitt uses the medium of comics to tell her story with more economy and power than either words or pictures could muster by themselves. She brings a good eye for the telling detail—the small observations that reveal larger truths—to her memoir of a family in crisis. Tangles is the work of a perceptive, creative, and honest storyteller.”
—Brian Fies, author of Mom’s Cancer

“An extraordinarily moving and vivid account, in text and cartoon-style pictures, of the life and death of an Alzheimer’s patient.”
—John Bayley, author of Elegy for Iris

“As the rate of Alzheimer’s continues to increase as the population ages, Tangles joins Jeffrey Moore’s novel The Memory Artists and Sarah Polley’s film Away From Her at the head of a list of illuminating and much-needed artistic responses.”  The Montreal Gazette

“Sarah writes and draws with perspicacity, humour and even anger… Her experience pulsates with realism and life, even while her mother is slowly disappearing… By creating this book, she has re-created her mother, a woman anyone would be privileged to have known.”  The Vancouver Sun

“The power of this graphic memoir is not that its story about a family dealing with Alzheimer’s is so extraordinary, but that it has become so ordinary.”  starred book review in Kircus Reviews


Graphic Displays of Motherhood,” Vanity Fair, May 7, 2012.

“Sarah Leavitt talks about her Alzheimer’s memoir Tangles” with Ian McGillis for The Montreal Gazette, July 30, 2011.