Somebody I Used to Know: A Memoir (Hardcover)

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“A brave and illuminating journey inside the mind, heart, and life of a person with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease.”—Lisa Genova, author of Still Alice

Wendy Mitchell had a busy job with the British National Health Service, raised her two daughters alone, and spent her weekends running and climbing mountains. Then, slowly, a mist settled deep inside the mind she once knew so well, blurring the world around her. She didn’t know it then, but dementia was starting to take hold. In 2014, at age fifty-eight, she was diagnosed with young-onset Alzheimer’s. 

In this groundbreaking book, Mitchell shares the heartrending story of her cognitive decline and how she has fought to stave it off. What lay ahead of her after the diagnosis was scary and unknowable, but Mitchell was determined and resourceful, and she vowed to outwit the disease for as long as she could.

As Mitchell learned to embrace her new life, she began to see her condition as a gift, a chance to experience the world with fresh eyes and to find her own way to make a difference. Even now, her sunny outlook persists: She devotes her time to educating doctors, caregivers, and other people living with dementia, helping to reduce the stigma surrounding this insidious disease.

Still living independently, Mitchell now uses Post-it notes and technology to remind her of her routines and has created a “memory room” where she displays photos—with labels—of her daughters, friends, and special places. It is a room where she feels calm and happy, especially on days when the mist descends.

A chronicle of one woman’s struggle to make sense of her shifting world and her mortality, Somebody I Used to Know offers a powerful rumination on memory, perception, and the simple pleasure of living in the moment. Philosophical, poetic, intensely personal, and ultimately hopeful, this moving memoir is both a tribute to the woman Wendy Mitchell used to be and a brave affirmation of the woman she has become.

Praise for Somebody I Used to Know

“Remarkable . . . Mitchell gives such clear-eyed insight that anyone who knows a person living with dementia should read this book.”The Times (London)

“A landmark book . . . The best reward for [Mitchell’s] courage and candour would surely be fundamental changes in the way people with dementia are treated by society.”—Financial Times

About the Author


Wendy Mitchell was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in July 2014 at the age of fifty-eight. She continued to work as an administrator for the British National Health Service until March 2015, when she retired to live “happily alone.” She now writes a popular blog about the experience of living with early-onset dementia called “Which me am I today?” She has been profiled on BBC news, and for two awareness-raising videos, one for the Alzheimer’s Society in the UK and one by Women & Home magazine. The single mother of two adult daughters, she lives in Yorkshire, England.

Praise For…


“A brave and illuminating journey inside the mind, heart, and life of a person with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease.”—Lisa Genova, author of Still Alice

“Remarkable . . . Mitchell gives such clear-eyed insight that anyone who knows a person living with dementia should read this book.”The Times (London)

“A landmark book . . . The best reward for [Mitchell’s] courage and candour would surely be fundamental changes in the way people with dementia are treated by society.”—Financial Times

“This memoir, with its humour and its sense of resilience, demonstrates how the diagnosis of dementia is not a clear line that a person crosses; they are no different . . . than they were the day before.”—Nicci Gerrard, The Observer

“You’ve seen recently a spate of new books based on those with Alzheimer’s disease—June is Alzheimer’s and Brain Awareness Month—but you haven’t seen one like this. . . . [Somebody I Used to Know] is a nonfiction account of the disease told from the front lines. . . . With personal and poetic precision, Mitchell does what she set out to do: help erase the stigma associated with early onset dementia and offer an intimate, sometimes disturbing, glimpse into her post-it note life as she crafts a legacy of who she is, even on the days when the mist is overwhelming.”Mountain Times

“Hauntingly hopeful.”Family Circle

Somebody I Used to Know is the inspiring story of [Mitchell’s] positive outlook, her dedication to educating others, and how she’s fought to outsmart the disease for as long as possible.”—Hello Giggles

“This memoir will open readers’ eyes to the struggles and successes of those diagnosed with dementia as well as provide insight for their caregivers.”Library Journal (starred review)

Somebody I Used to Know is both an indispensable guide for people grappling with the consequences of a dementia diagnosis and a stirring account of courage in the face of devastating loss.”Booklist (starred review)

“A sensitive, affective, and moving chronicle of how a woman with Alzheimer's has refused to let the disease completely rule her life. . . . In this moving, well-written memoir, [Wendy] Mitchell relates how her life inevitably changed. . . . [She] obviously refuses to give up, as evidenced by her writing this poignant statement of her life after the diagnosis.”Kirkus Reviews

“This is an eloquent and poignant book. Those of us who have gone on the heartbreaking journey of losing a loved one to dementia have wondered what they were feeling. Wendy Mitchell’s courageous and unflinching account lets us know.”—Patti Davis, author of The Long Goodbye

“I am so impressed with Wendy Mitchell’s attitude and ability to explain her experience—she is both an inspiration and a guide. I think this book will be extremely helpful to people who are trying to come to terms with dementia, in their own lives or the lives of their family and friends.”—Michael Palin
Product Details
ISBN: 9781524797911
ISBN-10: 152479791X
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Publication Date: June 5th, 2018
Pages: 272
Language: English