The Stranger in the Plumed Hat: A Memoir

Finalist for the Canadian Writers’ Trust Prize​ and the Torgi Award, The Stranger in the Plumed Hat is a poignant memoir that charts the gradual decline of the author’s elderly mother, documenting how her compromised powers of memory, judgment, and reasoning impact the life of an ordinary family. The book offers considerable information about this devastating neuro-degenerative disorder, but it is above all a moving portrait of a courageous and resourceful immigrant woman, of a troubled marriage, and a complex mother-daughter relationship.

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Critical Acclaim for The Stranger in the Plumed Hat: A Memoir

An utterly moving, memorable, and haunting book – an extraordinary evocation of the relationship between a mother and a daughter, written with gentle humor, with genuine passion, and with grace.Jay Neugeboren

… a taut, expressive, and emotionally restrained exploration of a family’s descent into Alzheimer’s. I admired it greatly for its clarity and courage. Any family who has been to this dark place will derive comfort and instruction from her work.Michael Ignatieff

This is not only a richly human report of the devastation of Alzheimer’s – hideous, poignant and ruefully funny; it is also an acknowledgement of how tangled and endlessly changing our memories of family turn out to be, long, long before the compromises of senility set in.Rosellen Brown

Chapter I

There was, in my parents’ album, a photograph which, as a child, I both admired and feared. It showed a beautiful young woman dressed in a dark suit and soft angora sweater; a black-and-white femme fatale wearing a diamond brooch and a felt hat with a white, audacious feather. It was my mother, but a mother I was barely acquainted with; a glamorous stranger who held me in her complex spell for years. Not that I was unaccustomed to seeing my mother elegantly turned out, but this photo – it had been taken in Lodz, around 1950 – suggested infinite mystery and hauteur. It had captured an aloof, Greta Garbo-like persona with crayoned lips and narrow, voracious eyes that bespoke both hunger and danger …