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Colonel Parkinson in Charge: A Wry Reflection on My Incurable Illness

When he was sixty-five, François Gravel was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, upending the old age he had imagined for himself. As a way of contemplating his new life with a degenerative illness, he turned to what he knew best and loved most: writing. Gravel immersed himself in research on Parkinson’s, exploring its medical history and treatments and paying close attention to the changes he experienced, all in service of learning how to best manage his symptoms throughout the advancement of this incurable disease. 

With a lightness of touch that belies a difficult subject (he imagines Dr. Parkinson as a military man who has set up camp in his brain), Gravel shares what he has learned in a memoir that is at once charming, serious, and moving. He writes, “For a long time, I believed that Parkinson’s was a disease. Now, I realize it’s a philosophy course.” Colonel Parkinson in Charge is, in some ways, the companion text for this course, engaging with and demystifying a daunting subject to help readers better understand life with Parkinson’s disease.

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