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Memoir Review: How to Forget

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Renowned actress Kate Mulgrew, best known for her roles at Captain Janeway in Star Trek: Voyager and Red in Orange Is the New Black, has written a deeply moving memoir, How to Forget, about her parents and their deaths from cancer and Alzheimer’s disease. It was excellent on audio.

The first half of the book focuses on her father. Kate was starring in a play, touring in Florida, when her older brother called to ask her to come home to Iowa. He said their father had a doctor’s appointment coming up, and it was serious. Kate dropped everything, leaving the play to her understudy, and hurried home to Iowa. It was, indeed, serious. The doctor said their father, a lifelong smoker, had late-stage lung cancer and probably only had a few weeks to live (this was the first time he’d agreed to finally see a doctor). Kate stayed home, they called the rest of their siblings, and Kate set about trying to make the best of her father’s last weeks, enjoying his company, bringing him comfort, and finally being at his side for his last days. In flashbacks, it’s clear that her father wasn’t perfect, and their relationship had its bumps, but in those final weeks, Kate was completely devoted to him and to making his end-of-life as comfortable and easy as possible. Then, Kate turns to her mother’s story, who was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease fairly early and was already deep into its clutches by the time of her husband’s death. She tells of her mother’s childhood and life as a young woman, her hopes and dreams, her artwork, and her relationship with Kate. Kate relates her mother’s early symptoms, diagnosis, gradual decline until she no longer knew her daughter or other family members, and her eventual death. Again, Kate did everything she could to seek out the best medical care and to make her mother as happy as possible in those later days.

Yes, these are very difficult topics, especially if you’ve had similar experiences, as my family and I have. But Kate brings a much-needed sense of humor and deep compassion to these dark stories. The book is not only about her parents’ deaths; it is about their lives. She brings them each to life on the page, highlights what made them unique and special, and describes honestly  her complicated relationship with each of them. Kate also perfectly describes the experiences of seeing family members die of cancer and dim from dementia, which is especially moving if you have experienced it yourself. It turns out that Kate is as good a writer as she is an actor, and this memoir is beautifully written, with a flare for the dramatic at times (to be expected). The audio was immersive, read by her in that distinctive voice, feeling as if she is your good friend, sharing her stories with you in an intimate setting. While difficult at times due to my own personal experiences, I could very much relate to Kate’s stories and enjoyed listening to her beautiful tributes to her parents and her honest account of the end of their lives.

352 pages, William Morrow


Disclosure: I received this book from the publisher in return for an honest review. My review is my own opinion and is not influenced by my relationship with the publisher or author.


Note: This post contains affiliate links. Purchases from these links provide a small commission to me (pennies per purchase), to help offset the time I spend writing for this blog, at no extra cost to you.


This book fits in the following 2023 Reading Challenges:

Nonfiction Reader’s Challenge – Relationships

Literary Escapes Challenge – Iowa

Visit my YouTube Channel for more bookish fun!

Listen to a sample of the audiobook here and/ordownload it from Audible. The sample showcases the honesty and emotional complexity of the narrative and its beautiful writing.

Or get this audiobook from and support local bookstores (audio sample here, too).

Print and e-book from Amazon.

You can buy the book through, where your purchase will support the indie bookstore of your choice (or all indie bookstores)–the convenience of shopping online while still buying local!



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