Non­fic­tion

The End of Her: Rac­ing Against Alzheimer’s to Solve a Murder

  • Review
By – May 16, 2022

Part mem­oir and part mys­tery is how to best describe Wayne Hoffman’s new book, The End of Her: Rac­ing Against Alzheimer’s to Solve a Mur­der. Uti­liz­ing his skills as both a jour­nal­ist and a nov­el­ist, Hoff­man recounts his quest to solve the mur­der of his great-grand­moth­er, killed in her sleep in Win­nipeg in 1913, and to share his find­ings with his moth­er before her mind is rav­aged by Alzheimer’s Dis­ease. In the process, the author’s search for truth explores issues of Jew­ish iden­ti­ty, the immi­grant expe­ri­ence, famil­ial oblig­a­tion, love, and loss.

The author’s search begins after he tells the improb­a­ble sto­ry of his grandmother’s death to a room full of jour­nal­ists. Skep­ti­cal him­self, but encour­aged by his col­leagues, Hoff­man begins to unpack the sto­ry by request­ing his great-grandmother’s death cer­tifi­cate. When it arrives in the mail and reads “’bul­let wound through the brain — homi­ci­dal,’” the author is hooked, and the quest begins.

As The End of Her con­tin­ues, Hoff­man weaves chap­ters about his mother’s decline and his fam­i­ly his­to­ry into a sin­gle nar­ra­tive. He includes fam­i­ly trees, pho­tos, and news­pa­per clip­pings, both in Eng­lish and Yid­dish, to add to the reader’s inter­est and under­stand­ing. Dur­ing his inves­ti­ga­tion, he unrav­els addi­tion­al fam­i­ly mys­ter­ies and paints a vivid pic­ture of life in Winnipeg’s thriv­ing Jew­ish com­mu­ni­ty in the peri­ods before and after World War One and the influen­za out­break of 1918. He also explores the rela­tion­ship between the immi­grant com­mu­ni­ties of Win­nipeg and the dis­trust, anti­semitism, and bias­es that per­sist­ed among the groups that set­tled in Canada.

While The End of Her does not offer the sat­is­fac­tion of a neat­ly resolved mur­der mys­tery, it does offer the read­er a fas­ci­nat­ing and well-writ­ten sto­ry that keeps one’s inter­est to the very last page. While unproven, the author’s final analy­sis of the unlike­ly events of 1913 is com­pelling. Equal­ly com­pelling are Hoffman’s moti­va­tions for writ­ing this sto­ry: to share his family’s rich and unex­plored his­to­ry, to hon­or his moth­er and cap­ture her heart­break­ing decline, and to under­stand him­self a lit­tle bet­ter. He is suc­cess­ful in each of these goals and read­ers are enriched by it.

Jonathan Fass is the Man­ag­ing Direc­tor of Edu­ca­tion­al Tech­nol­o­gy and Strat­e­gy at The Jew­ish Edu­ca­tion Project of New York.

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