Author Ryshia Kennie wrote her latest novel The Tears We Never Cried based on her very real experience with a family member’s Alzheimer’s and dementia, although she wanted to approach the topic with a new message.
“I just wanted to tell the story that they're still people, they're still enjoying life, they're still there in just a different kind of way,” said Kennie. “They are people with lives and paths and histories, and purpose in society still.”
The main character of the fictional novel is Cassandra, a Regina woman who is suddenly called to the police station one day to pick up her mother, Jessica — the moment where Cassie realizes that her mother has fast-moving Alzheimer’s and both of their lives will have to drastically change.
Kennie’s novel follows the family-of-two’s journey with the disease, the ways it affects their own lives and the lives of those around them, but Kennie purposefully focuses the narrative on their mother-daughter relationship.
The idea came from Kennie’s own family, as she reflected on her father’s diagnosis of Alzheimer’s and how her mother became his caretaker, as well as her mother-in-law’s diagnosis of the same disease.
“That's where the heart and emotion came from, seeing it in real life,” said Kennie. “Everybody's journey is different. I didn't think what I wrote was going to be the same as anybody else's [experience] but I think there's parts of it, the grieving of it, the letting go, that just kind of is common to all.”
As she was writing the book, Kennie knew it was an emotional topic and the reviews she’s received so far have only confirmed how readers can connect with the character’s experience.
It wasn’t necessarily her intention to write a deeply emotional story, said Kennie, especially as she wanted to focus more on the journey that occurs between Cassie and her mother and the beauty of discovering each other’s history.
“What I was trying to do with the book was kind of not make it emotional, make it like this was happening but they were still living life. They were still enjoying it together. She got to know her mother in different ways because Mom was changing and secrets emerged from the past,” said Kennie.
The Tears We Never Cried is a small step in a new direction for Kennie, who has largely written romance and adventure novels in the past. While the story itself is set close to home in Regina and more family-focused, it maintains her usual romantic flair.
“There’s still a romance that runs through the story,” said Kennie. “It's kind of a sub-plot, it laces through but it's a minor part of the book. . . It's also something that keeps the book from being so completely bleak.”
The Tears We Never Cried released earlier in December, which was timed perfectly as it made the novel available during national Alzheimer’s Awareness Month this January.