This is a past event from the 2022 festival See the current programme


Pukapuka Talks

Bestselling authors Wendyl Nissen and Charity Norman have both ‘been through the fire’ of supporting a parent with dementia, which led to them writing two astonishing books. In this session, they will explore what works when it comes to dementia treatment and care and what desperately needs to change to ensure our loved ones can die with dignity.

Wendy Nissen’s mother Elsie died with Alzheimer’s in 2019 and Charity Norman’s mother Beryl died with the same disease in 2016. When a parent gets dementia, how do their immediate whānau attempt to understand and process the experience afterwards?

In Charity Norman’s case, she wrote Remember Me, a compelling novel about a 40-something woman called Emily returning to Aotearoa to care for her father who has dementia. The story is also a ‘whodunnit’, as Emily gradually finds out the truth about the disappearance of their neighbour’s daughter 25 years earlier. When The Spinoff books editor Catherine Woulfe described the novel as 'extraordinarily moving in its exploration of the notion of a good death', she concluded that one can't write a book like this without a real story behind it. This is your opportunity to hear it.

Wendyl Nissen also attempted to come to terms with her mother’s final years by writing about it; in her case, a funny and moving memoir called My Mother and Other Secrets.

In doing so, she unexpectedly exposed numerous family secrets. Determined to uncover the buried truth, Nissen’s journalistic training led her to some wild and intriguing stories of loss, grief, and love. My Mother and Other Secrets is a story about mothers and daughters, ageing and the way deep family traumas echo across generations, spliced with practical advice.

We’ll consider how best to support a loved with dementia, discuss how to look after yourself in the process, examine theories about the contributing factors – genetics, nutrition, insomnia, physical inactivity, emotional repression – and look at what the latest science says about prevention.

Facilitated by Kerry Sunderland.


Catch up on the kōrero via our Pukapuka Talks podcast:

Buy the pukapuka here:

Wendyl Nissen: My Mother and Other Secrets | Charity Norman: Remember Me


With thanks to Allen & Unwin.


Charity Norman 

Charity Norman was born in Uganda and brought up in successive draughty vicarages in Yorkshire and Birmingham. After several years' travel she became a barrister, specialising in crime and family law in the northeast of England. Also a mediator and telephone crisis line listener, she's passionate about the power of communication to slice through the knots. In 2002, realising that her three children had barely met her, she took a break from the law and moved with her family to Aotearoa. Her first novel, Freeing Grace, was published in 2010. Second Chances (After the Fall) was a Richard and Judy Book Club choice and World Book Night title. See You in September (2017) was shortlisted for Best Crime Novel in the 2018 Ngaio Marsh Awards for Crime Fiction. The Secrets of Strangers is her sixth book and has been shortlisted for Best International Crime Fiction at the 2021 Ned Kelly Awards and shortlisted for Best Novel at the 2021 Ngaio Awards. Remember Me is her seventh book.


Wendyl Nissen 

Wendyl Nissen is a journalist, broadcaster and magazine editor who is the author of 10 books, mostly about living a chemical-free, old-fashioned life. She left the corporate world 20 years ago and now lives in the Hokianga with her husband, 10 chickens (and counting), two dogs and two stray cats. Copies of her latest book, A Natural Year: Living Simply Through the Seasons, which continues her story, will also be available at our festival bookstore. 


Kerry Sunderland 

Kerry Sunderland was born and raised on Bunurong Country in Victoria, Australia, then ‘grew up’ on Minjungbal Country in NSW before moving to Aotearoa in late 2012. In 2016, she completed a Master of Arts (Creative Writing) at Victoria University of Wellington. Since 2018, she has been programme manager of the Nelson Arts Festival’s literary programme, Pukapuka Talks. Her personal essay, ‘Scared to Death’, was published in Headlands: New Stories of Anxiety (Victoria University Press, 2018), and is currently being adapted for the screen. Kerry also works as a freelance journalist, writing features and people profiles for publications including New Zealand Geographic, The Spinoff, North & South, Stuff/Nelson Mail and The Byron Echo. 

Fri 21 Oct | 3.00pm

60 min
Pay What You Can (PWYC)

Plus service fee 

Content Warnings: Mental illness

Similar Shows

Sign-up to get the latest festival news

"*" indicates required fields

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.