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Summary

Ronald Reagan’s daughter writes with a moving openness about losing her father to Alzheimer’s disease. The simplicity with which she reveals the intensity, the rush, the flow of her feelings encompasses all the surprises and complexities that ambush us when death gradually, unstoppably invades life. 

In The Long Goodbye, Patti Davis describes losing her father to Alzheimer’s disease, saying goodbye in stages, helpless against the onslaught of a disease that steals what is most precious - a person’s memory. “Alzheimer’s,” she writes, “snips away at the threads, a slow unraveling, a steady retreat; as a witness all you can do is watch, cry, and whisper a soft stream of goodbyes.” 

She writes of needing to be reunited at 42 with her mother (“she had wept as much as I over our long, embittered war”), of regaining what they had spent decades demolishing; a truce was necessary to bring together a splintered family, a few weeks before her father released his letter telling the country and the world of his illness...The author delves into her memories to touch her father again, to hear his voice, to keep alive the years she had with him. 

She writes as if past and present were coming together, of her memories as a child, holding her father’s hand, and as a young woman whose hand is being given away in marriage by her father...of her father teaching her to ride a bicycle, of the moment when he let her go and she went off on her own...of his teaching her the difference between a hawk and a buzzard...of the family summer vacations at a rented beach house - each of them tan, her father looking like the athlete he was, with a swimmer’s broad shoulders and lean torso....

She writes of how her father never resisted solitude, in fact was born for it, of that strange reserve that made people reach for him....She recalls him sitting at his desk, writing, staring out the window...and she writes about the toll of the disease itself, the look in her father’s eyes, and her efforts to reel him back to her. 

Moving...honest...an illuminating portrait of grief, of a man, a disease, and a woman and her father. 

©2004 Patti Davis (P)2004 Books on Tape

Critic reviews

"Patti Davis has presented the world with a very, very great gift - a lasting tribute to her father, a model of courage and acceptance, a powerful description of the slow, merciless thievery of Alzheimer's disease, and a testament to the incredible resiliency of the human spirit. The pages of The Long Goodbye are electric with love, pain, loss, forgiveness, and a strange, shining beauty.  I adored this book.  It hurt my heart.  It lifted my heart." (Tim O'Brien, author of The Things They Carried)

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Laura
  • 22-03-05

Bring your kleenex along for this ride

This book was such a wonderful testament to Ms. Davis' father. Ms. Davis has a wonderful way of reaching into your soul and bringing out the emotions you tuck neatly away. I think I cried throughout the whole book. I related to her on every level and understood the pain she was going through (my grandmother had Alzheimer's). This book gave me new insight into the lives of Ronald and Nancy Regan and I now have a deep respect for them. A MUST READ!

6 people found this helpful

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  • Sherry
  • 03-09-12

Finding love and life

If you could sum up The Long Goodbye in three words, what would they be?

Insightful and Heartwarming

Who was your favorite character and why?

Patti, because she was able to express so well the truth of her own growth through a most difficult disease, Alzheimer's. This is the story of her personal relationship with her father who was inflicted with the disease and who also happened to be, arguably the most influential and beloved President of the United States in the last century!

Which character – as performed by Staci Snell – was your favorite?

Patti Davis, daughter of Ronald Reagan

Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

I cried, because it hits a personal chord for me as I care for my husband, age 65, who also has Alzheimer's Disease. We have known each other since high school and have been married 44 years. He is and always has been the love of my life and best friend!

Any additional comments?

Alzheimer's is one of the most devastating diseases of our time! There is no cure and little hope of a cure anytime soon. Death will occur within around ten years if not sooner. While it clearly affects families dealing with the disease up close and personal, it will ultimately take its' toll on everyone as those suffering will grow from the current five million in the US alone to over 20 million worldwide by 2013.

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  • Jim Bodden
  • 20-04-15

Validating, comforting and thought provoking...

I foundtoga bop to be validating, conforting and thought provoking. I was able to identify greatly with this and can't even begin to describe the many things I found we have in common.

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  • Bobbie R.
  • 10-05-22

Shame on you, Patty

You dishonored your dad by writing such a downer of a book. RR was a man of greatness and positive outlook. Your sad, drowning was so poorly written. I sis not, could not finished the book. I may have had to slit my wrist just listening to the person pieces to narrate. You really need to seek a good therapist to sort out your struggles.

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 08-12-19

Lacking

Unfortunately it lacked much substance on President Reagan’s fight with Alzheimer’s or any real content about the struggle a family dealing with this goes through. The last chapter was the best written but felt like a book stretched out with lots of unnecessary adjectives. Just wasn’t well written in my opinion.

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  • Michael
  • 07-02-19

Good, but predictable

This is a fine story of losing a father to Alzheimer's. It is less about Reagan as a president, and more about his being a father. The author was estranged from her father for years and did not fully reconcile with him before Alzheimer's struck. There are many memories, guilt, sorrow, and loss. I smiled a few times, but did not come close to tears. Often I was feeling how this story would be different if the family was not economically and medically secure. There was a subtle sense of entitlement and a little lack of perspective, even childishness which I found weakened the book,

This is not a bad book, but there are many better books on loss and grief.

The narration was excellent.

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  • Dale
  • 21-07-18

Truly a great book, looked forward it.

A great read, loved all the personal details between a great man and his family. I grew up with Reagan in office and went against my parents who voted for the other guy who ever that was. and became a conservative. I watched in horror when the attempted assassination took place. I then read a book about the assassination attempt and discovered how close we as a nation came to losing a President that effectly ended the cold war. I thank Nancy for writing a great intimate book about her father.

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  • Sharon
  • 31-10-07

Boring

It just seemes so redundant