The Unravelling by Clem Martini and Olivier Martini

The Unravelling:
How our caregiving safety net came unstrung and we were left grasping at threads, struggling to plait a new one

by Clem Martini and Olivier Martini

September 12, 2017
10 x 6, paper, 240 pages
CDN/US $23.95

Buy The Unravelling now

Winner of the Alberta Trade Non-Fiction Book of the Year Award
Finalist for the City of Calgary W.O. Mitchell Book Prize

In the follow-up to their award-winning memoir Bitter Medicine, brothers Clem and Olivier Martini continue the story of their family’s journey through mental illness, dementia, caregiving, and the health care system.

Olivier Martini and his mother, Catherine, have lived together since he was diagnosed with schizophrenia thirty-six years ago. It hasn’t always been a perfect living situation, but it’s worked — Catherine has helped Olivier through the ups and downs of living with a mental illness, and Olivier has cared for his aging mother as her mobility becomes limited, and Olivier’s brothers Clem and Nic have provided support to both as well. But then Olivier experiences a health crisis at the exact same time that his mother starts slipping into dementia.

The Martini family’s lifelong struggle with mental illness is suddenly complicated immeasurably as they begin to navigate the convoluted world of assisted living and long-term care. With anger, dry humour, and hope, The Unravelling tells the story of one family’s journey with mental illness, dementia, and caregiving, through a poignant graphic narrative from Olivier accompanied by text from his brother, award-winning playwright and novelist Clem Martini.

A trailer for The Unravelling

Praise for Bitter Medicine

“[A] poignant, heart-wrenching and at times infuriating story about the Martini family’s 30-year battles with schizophrenia and the mental health-care system.” – Calgary Herald

“The book’s greatest strength is its profound ability to humanize a frequently misunderstood condition, and to highlight mental illness as the ‘orphan child’ of the health care community.” – Quill and Quire

Reviews and Interviews

“A personal story with personal connects [which] rattles me personally . . . an amazing and difficult road to travel. I could not see that book being any better than it was. . . . Pure truth, disturbing but real.” 2018 Alberta Trade Non-Fiction Book of the Year Award jury

“To my shock and amazement, I raced through this book in two days, dying to read just another page, reacting to it the way one would a fast-paced thriller…This book was so relevant to me because it not only acted as a road-map for what’s ahead, but a relatable account of all the emotions one may go through when entering this time of life; helplessness, shame, embarrassment, yet undying hope that one is ‘doing the right thing’ for their family.” I’ve Read This, April 24, 2018.

Interview on CBC Radio’s The Homestretch with Doug Dirks, April 20, 2018.

“It is a personal and emotional account of caregiving, as well as an angry lament of the state of Canada’s healthcare system for the mentally ill and ageing.CMAJ Blogs, April 9, 2018.

“Four Books on Dementia and Aging,” Dementia Connections, 2018.

Interview with Clem Martini on The Almanacs, CJSW 90.0 FM, December 2017 (podcast recording).

Article by Clem Martini in Alberta Views, December 2017.

Interview with Clem Martini in Prairie books NOW: The Unravelling is meant to reach out to families that are experiencing this type of stress and help them realize they aren’t alone. It’s equally meant to reach out to the medical community to raise awareness that family caregiving needs to be better recognized and supported.” Winter 2017−18.

The Unravelling is a candid, painful and, at times, comical account of what it’s like to navigate a perplexing health-care system that fails to meet the needs of the patient.” Globe and Mail, interview and advance excerpt, August 17, 2017.

The Unravelling also takes a hard look at the frustrations family caregivers experience in dealing with the health-care system.” UToday interview, September 6, 2017.

“While the book is a very personal look at what the brothers faced, it’s also something that many people can relate to: aging parents, mental illness, dementia and dealing with assisted living and the long-term-care system . . . Dementia was particularly tough because for so long, [their mother] knew her role as the glue that kept everyone together. “She wanted to stay involved, but ultimately, we had to say ‘You can’t anymore. You’re not providing help. You’re needing help,’” Clem says.” Calgary Herald interview, September 16, 2017.

“[A] tribute from Clem and Olivier to their mother, who was independent and resilient through the many challenges of her life. Clem describes dementia as ‘a fire that Mom is slowly being lowered into, and it burns away everything that existed but her essence.’ This is surely the experience of every child of an elderly parent with dementia.” Alberta Views, March 2018.