The Smallest Objective

From a press release courtesy of Janis kirshner

The loss and recovery of memories is a central theme of intriguing narrative nonfiction, The Smallest Objective.

Sharon Kirsch’s new book, The Smallest Objective, is a fitting read for this year’s World Alzheimer’s Month in September. Its author is well versed in the challenges and intricacies of the ‘dementia journey’ as she witnessed first her father and then her mother lose their memory, along with their independence and the underpinnings of their lives. A topical subject as people with dementia have suffered unduly from the COVID-19 pandemic, Kirsch chronicles the satisfactions and heartaches of caring for a loved one from afar. She shares the day-to-day anxieties of supporting her mother in assisted living, as well as asking the more searching questions about what it means when we can’t remember. As the author dismantles her parents’ home in Montreal while preparing it for sale, she happens upon objects hidden there—a treasure cache reveals of 20th-century family members she never knew, their fates bound up with the history of the city itself. In this poignant tale of loss and retrieval, Kirsch ultimately finds a new sense of purpose in recovering family memories on behalf of her mother—and some

Please click to see an excerpt read by the author  Click to read an excerpt from The Smallest Objective

September is World Alzheimer’s Month/Sept. 21 is World Alzheimer’s Day

Book traces author’s past while recovering memories


“Make it a habit at the outset to keep both eyes open.”—Manipulation of the Microscope, Edward Bausch

The Smallest Objective

Compelling narrative nonfiction by Sharon Kirsch

Please click to see an excerpt read by the author

“While the days tentatively grew longer and my mother gradually was vanishing from my life, her house was delivering to me through its objects a family I’d never known.”—The Smallest Objective

August, 2020World Alzheimer’s Month is the international campaign by Alzheimer’s Disease International every September to raise awareness and challenge the stigma that surrounds dementia. World Alzheimer’s Day is on September 21.  Along with Alzheimer’s, many themes in The Smallest Objective reflect the current climate. The literary memoir examines lives lived; it’s about staying connected to loved ones, as author Sharon Kirsch (a Montreal-raised Toronto resident) is feeling heartache and anxiety being separated from her mother with dementia who is living in a care home in another city. From The Globe and Mail’s André Picard: “No group has been harder hit by the coronavirus pandemic than people living with dementia. They account for a staggering two-thirds of the nearly 9,000 COVID-19 deaths in Canada.”

The Small­est Objec­tive is a sto­ry about the decline of a par­ent, and of the author’s reflection on this pas­sage in life; as the narrator struggles with her mother’s failing memory, unexpected secrets come into focus and a layered legacy of willed forgetfulness is uncovered.

The emotional and physical impetus for Kirsch’s newest book stems from a sequence of loss, and recovery. Here it is anguish for her mother’s waning independence, and the act of reclaiming family stories. “My mother’s struggle with dementia and my own related feelings of helplessness and grief were the motivation for writing The Smallest Objective. When it proved necessary to transfer my mother from her home of 50 years to assisted-living, my strongest desire became to instil in her a sense of comfort and security. This meant concealing my own turbulent emotions surrounding her memory loss and the letting go of the family home,” said Kirsch. The author’s experiences were instead channelled through her writing. “I composed, too, with the awareness that dementia is pervasive and my mother and I were not alone in our journey—in the hope that others supporting a loved one through the dementia experience or having already done so might find some comfort or a sense of community in my memoir,” she added.

“There was a chronology to my mother’s forgetting: first, the symptoms of my father’s illness, then bill payments or going to a friend’s or relative’s funeral; later, that her son-in-law worked in Boston, which days the garbage went out, how to open the trunk of the car, what she’d eaten for dinner, that she’d eaten dinner, that she’d phoned me ten times, that she couldn’t remember.”The Smallest Objective

It became Kirsch’s respon­si­bil­i­ty to sort out the accu­mu­la­tion of fam­i­ly memen­tos. Most imme­di­ate­ly press­ing is the solu­tion to an old fam­i­ly mys­tery: what is her father sup­posed to have con­cealed beneath her par­ents’ bed­room floor? She undertakes an excavation for buried treasure aided by a team of archeologists. The book includes black-and-white photographs of the objects that spoke to Kirsch, disclosing her past.

This first-person creative narrative produces unsettling discoveries about several personalities as revealed by the things that survive them—a microscope and lantern slides, a postcard from Mexico, a worn recipe book, a nugget of fool’s gold, an enve­lope of yel­low­ing news­pa­per clip­pings, and the obituary of a renowned black sheep in the family. In the end, after much packing and unpacking, the search yields both less and more than Kirsch ever imagined, as well as the extent to which this unique family was punctured and shaped by the muffled anti-Semitism of the time.

New Star Books Publisher Rolf Maurer was riveted by Kirsch’s hinted secrets and depth of discovery, “This is a book about the Kirsch family as well as the darker and more tragic aspects of people’s existence. As with any great memoir, the real gold is in the stories that the narrator encounters in settling her own account,” he said. For further insights into Kirsch’s story, check out her blog and Facebook page.

In The Small­est Objec­tive (the title refers to the lens of a microscope that allows for the highest degree of magnification), we learn the story of Kirsch’s  grand­fa­ther, Simon Kirsch, an ide­al­is­tic young plant scientist versed in the fossil record who turns lat­er in life to iconic prop­er­ty devel­op­ment; of Jockey Fleming, the Runyonesque uncle manqué well-known by gossip columnists who hid his ori­gins to play the role of one of the era’s great colour­ful char­ac­ters; and of Kirsch’s independent aunt, who came of age in the lead-up to Expo 67 but was unable to fulfill her promise, tearing a jagged hole into the author’s mother’s life.

FromThe Miramichi Reader: “In this particularly well-crafted memoir, author Sharon Kirsch shares her experience of exploration, healing and loss. Akin to an intricately detailed slide under a microscope, this suite of stories, in fact, a collection of newly discovered memories, is a familial jigsaw puzzle—a series of mysteries, reassembled by way of meticulous research and the astute observation of a writer in her prime.”

The Smallest Objective is a beautiful and melancholy memoir about the hidden recesses of a family (some at the fringes of the law), and the treasures that the past can bring in the face of a difficult present. This is an ideal time to read a book and be transported; reflecting on parents, extended family and wild eccentrics who were only talked about in a whisper…

“Several decades ago, then, willingly, deliberately, I’d left my parents and the house behind. Now my mother and the house were leaving me.”—The Smallest Objective

Click to read an excerpt from The Smallest Objective

Creative nonfiction/literary memoir

The Smallest Objective by Sharon Kirsch

Published by New Star Books ISBN: 9781554201556 | 272 pages |$21

The Smallest Objective in bookstores, and as an eBook at Amazon & Kobo among others

Book launch including dynamic readings and an insightful Q & A at a future date

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