By Frank Morelli
The concept for No Sad Songs had been building since my high school years. Back then, I was living a pretty charmed life. I went to school, played sports, and lived on a nice, suburban street. My life was about as “normal” as any teenage life could be.
Then we started noticing changes in my grandfather. Little things. Like, he’d forget to send birthday cards which he’d been known to send early, or he’d lose his keys or forget an appointment. Then it seemed like we went to sleep one night and woke up the next morning and my grandfather was this completely different person; one who needed assistance just to get through the daily tasks of living.
That assistance came in the form of my father, a man who worked full time and dedicated every other waking second to keeping my grandfather out of a nursing home. He did a good job of masking the toll it was taking on him, but he could never hide it from me. And although I never said it to him, I couldn’t get past the thought: what if it had been me? What would I have done if my father hadn’t been around to absorb the family responsibility before it ever spread in my direction? How would I have responded? Would I have survived?
My protagonist, Gabe LoScuda, was born directly out of these questions. His story was a way for me to explore the same puzzling thoughts many of us have when our loved ones begin to become unrecognizable to us.
My grandfather battled Alzheimer’s for eight long years, which is not an insignificant amount of time in anyone’s life. What it meant for me was that I watched my grandfather deteriorate for about twenty-five percent of my life. There’s a real sense of helplessness and loss that pushes down on you when you watch a slow deterioration like that. At the same time, there’s an overpowering weight of responsibility that drives most caregivers to keep pushing on no matter the price.
These personal experiences made me think about how many other people in the world have been affected by the disease just like I had, and how many would continue to have their lives changed forever in the future. This “future” part of the equation is what ultimately led me to target my story at young adults, because the problem is not getting better or even slowing down.
In fact, the Alzheimer’s Association estimates almost a quarter of a million people will be diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia in the next year alone and that over fifteen million Americans are currently providing unpaid care for people with Alzheimer’s or other dementias. The youth of our society will, unfortunately, not be spared from the horrors of this disease. That fact is seemingly inevitable.
It is my hope that young readers will finish No Sad Songs with a new respect for what it takes to be a caregiver, and an understanding of how intertwined these duties become in the lives of people fighting on the front lines of a growing health dilemma that is rapidly approaching epidemic levels. And I want them to be inspired to become champions in the fight against this terrible disease so that future generations will never have to watch their loved ones disappear right before their eyes.
I’ve already received some glowing feedback on the novel since its release in February. I’ve been stopped on the street, in bookstores, and even in the hallways at the school where I teach by people who’ve had their own experiences caring for loved ones with Alzheimer’s. Each time, they quote back to me lines and events from my story that resonated with them, and we share common experiences that help us feel like we’re not alone in the fight, which is another goal I had when writing the novel.
The book has also garnered some glowing blurbs and reviews that make me feel like my intended purpose for writing it has landed with my readers.
I hope you’ll have a chance to read No Sad Songs or to pass it along to a young adult reader you think would benefit from its message. For more information about the novel, please visit my publisher’s website at Fish Out of Water Books or give a listen to this free podcast with me in conversation with NYT Bestseller, Charlie Lovett. You can also connect with me on Twitter (@frankmoewriter), Facebook, Instagram, or on my author page at www.frankmorelliwrites.com.