Back in July of 1996 I talked with John Thorndike (El Salvador 1967-69) about his book, Another Way Home. It was his story of meeting a young Salvadoran woman, Clarisa, when he was in the Peace Corps, teaching English at the National University of El Salvador, and falling in love with Clarisa and getting married. After the first year, when their son Janir was born, Clarisa drifted into schizophrenia and her behavior endangered her child’s life. John was working as a farmer, but he feared for his son’s safety and he made the decision to bring Janir back to the United States and raise him alone. Another Way Home is the poignant account of their life together.
Today, John lives and writes in Athens, Ohio. His new non-fiction came out in October, 2009, and is entitled: The Last of His Mind: A Year in the Shadow of Alzheimer’s.
John writes on his blog [http://www.johnthorndike.com], “My father, Joe Thorndike, was an independent New Englander, once the managing editor of Life, and the founder of American Heritage and Horizon magazines. At 91, his one great desire was to remain in his own house, even as memory and language deserted him. He had once told me, after a visit to an old friend in a nursing home, ‘Don’t ever put me in a place like that.’ So at the start of 2005, to allow him to stay at home, I left Ohio and moved into his house on Cape Cod. Slowly, in the months that followed, he lost the ability to carry on a conversation, to read a clock, to remember that his pants went on over his underwear.”
The Kirkus Review writes, “ A brave, moving story of a son’s devotion to his dying father…. Thorndike’s prose is serenely beautiful and his patience in caring for an Alzheimer’s patient is extremely admirable. An affecting work of emotional honesty and forgiveness.”
I haven’t had any contact with John over the years, and he has been, like most writers, off on his own, but he is an underappreciated RPCV author who has written two very good novels [ Anna Delaney’s Child and The Potato Baron] and these two memoirs about fatherhood and mental illness. You can learn more about John and read an excerpt from his new book on his website. Check it out.