About the Book

“This novel is simply too lovely, too powerful, too moving, too stunning for words.”  — Paula Silici, Author, Chicken Soup for the Gardener’s Soul

Winner — IPPY Gold Winner for Popular Fiction!

Winner — Benjamin Franklin Silver for Popular Fiction!

Lillie Claire Glidden is unraveling. She knows she’s in trouble when she finds her wallet and keys deep in the refrigerator, smelling of lettuce and forgetfulness. And not even her favorite California red wine can dull the pain of the dreaded diagnosis: Alzheimer’s.

As language starts to fail her and words disappear, Lillie Claire is determined to find a way to pass on the lessons she learned as a child on a Southern porch. Surrounded by family and caregivers, she fights to hold on to the details of her life, and to recognize the woman in the mirror for as long as possible.

Told from Lillie Claire’s perspective, All the Dancing Birds offers beautiful and terrifying insight into the secret mind of those touched—and ultimately changed—by the mystery of Alzheimer’s disease.

From the book:

Chapter One

Now here I am, a small flickering light, sputtering softly in my chair, shifting, winking on and off. I’ve been trying to think my way out of this paper bag of a morning, but so far, I’ve only come up with the notion that, somehow, my mind is structured slightly differently than it was yesterday.

I’ve turned oddly forgetful.

I’m consumed with the thought that insects—scurrying black ants—are busy chewing the log of my brain into sawdust, grinding tunnels into blind passageways. Maybe these little buggies are making holes where all my thoughts are falling, tumbling, down and down. Of course, I tell no one about my bugs, or that I’m chronically consumed with half-baked daily riddles. Today’s perplexity is this: where did I place my little wallet with its ring and clip that holds my keys? I need them and they’re gone. Vanished!

I’m going to be late for dinner at my daughter’s house and here I am.


Certainly, I can’t talk with anyone about this new mysterious life. Not now. Maybe never. Of course, I should call my daughter to explain why I’m late, but what could I say?

Just approaching my mid-fifties (with only a few gray hairs, I might note), a mother doesn’t just casually mention she’s suddenly and forevermore deteriorated into a frightful and incorrigible dunderhead.

Certainly, it would be inappropriate to startle my children by blurting out, there’s nothing to worry about…your mother’s just losing it, but that’s not a problem, my dears. Indeed, how could I explain that their mother has recently turned into a mess of sodden, tearful forgetfulness?

Of course, the day had started kindly, as they often do—cloudless and just sharp enough to outline the faint edge of my breath during the short walk down the drive to retrieve the morning newspaper. It was nice then: coffee, the Sacramento Bee and no cares other than the day’s miserable headlines.

Then one after another, clouds rolled in overhead as if to call attention to the sudden, frantic search for my keys: drawers yanked open and pawed through, only to be left hanging open like mouths in mid-sentence, chair cushions flipped and left upended, even covers on the bed torn down, only to be left all higgledy-piggledy across the floor.

After two hours, I abandoned the hunt, still without finding what I most desperately needed.

My little wallet and my car keys are gone!

Now, as early afternoon overtakes me, I realize I’ve been sulking deep into the folds of my chair for the better part of the day, curled into the shape of a despondent question mark, grateful there was no one to witness my fretful search, my wild-eyed rummaging through every nook and cranny of the house.

Have you noticed how odd Lillie Claire has become? Such a question would certainly be appropriate, given this morning’s cursing and crying. Yes, the obvious response would be. Odd. Very odd. That’s the only proper word for it—odd.

© 2012, Auburn McCanta. All rights reserved. Excerpted from All the Dancing Birds, Marcanti Clarke Literary Press. Used with permission.