D. Liebhart Explores Impossible Promises in Dementia Novel

Book cover and quote from House on Fire by D. Liebhart

By D. Liebhart, United States

House on Fire is a novel about an ICU nurse whose mother asks her to euthanize her father who is living with dementia. My father had vascular dementia for about ten years. At first, my mother took care of him at home. But he started wandering off frequently, sometimes in the middle of the night, sometimes getting significantly lost. He spent the last five years of his life in assisted living. He died in 2014.

In the week before my mother’s death in 2020, she talked about how she’d let my father down by putting him in assisted living. She cried. I thought we’d come to terms with the decision, but it turned out that it was only me. My father worshipped my mother. I was certain the one thing he never would’ve wanted was to be the cause of her suffering. But apparently that didn’t absolve her. It was her job to take care of him in sickness and in health, no matter what, and in her mind she hadn’t done that.

Book cover for House on Fire, a novel by D. LiebhartHouse on Fire is fiction. It isn’t my family’s story though many parts of it are real. But in some ways it has become my family’s story. The central question revolves around a promise never to put someone in a home and how far people will go to keep that promise. I knew my mother hadn’t wanted to put my father in assisted living, but the depth of her guilt in those final days startled me. She was more like the mother figure in my finished book than I’d realized.

The other way this book became my life is far more profound. My mother asked me to help her kill herself after suffering a debilitating stroke. I found myself having conversations with her that were way too similar to things I’d written in my novel. My Google search history could’ve gotten me into trouble. In the midst of it all, I texted one of my writing friends and said, “I’m living my book.”

But this connection shouldn’t have surprised me, because my mother’s words were the spark that led me to write House on Fire in the first place. Through the years my father had dementia, my mother repeated two things often: “He didn’t deserve this,” and “If he’d known this was going to happen, he would have blown his brains out.” That latter comment became my book.

I can’t say that I wrote this novel with the intent to do anything except tell an authentic story about an issue facing a staggering number of people. According to the WHO, fifty-five million people worldwide have dementia with ten million new cases each year. It is a leading cause of disability and dependency. My hope is that this book might prompt some of the challenging conversations our society needs to have about this condition, the people who live with it, and the people who care for them.

Purchase House on Fire

Note: We are an Amazon Associate and may receive a small commission from book sales.

About the Author

D. Liebhart, authorD. Liebhart is a nurse and writer. She writes (and sometimes lives) stories about ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances, where they learn that life is rarely predictable and answers to life’s most complex questions are almost never black and white. House on Fire, her debut novel, was long-listed for the 2022 Petrichor Prize. Her essay Thalassophobia (a true account of a very out-of-the-ordinary honeymoon) won the 2021 Linda Julian Creative Nonfiction Prize from Emrys Journal and is available on her website.

Connect with D. Liebhart




Remember for Me Project Facebook

Remember for Me Project Instagram

“Remember for Me” is a personal project of the author’s in which she invites people to post remembrances of their loved ones with dementia.

Share the Post:

Subscribe to Our eNewsletter

SUBSCRIBE to our weekly eNewsletter! Be among the first to know about new authors, podcasts, events, and more for help on your dementia journey. As a welcome gift, you may download our FREE booklet “Caring for a Mother with Dementia,”  featuring 15 quality titles. Subscription is through bookfunnel.com. You may unsubscribe at any time.

Support Our Mission

Your support enables us to continue to provide quality resources for dementia caregivers. We appreciate any donation. Thank you for your support!