Three Questions with June Hutton and Tony Wanless

This week, we sit down with June Hutton and Tony Wanless, authors of Four Umbrellas: A Couple’s Journey Into Young-Onset Alzheimer’s, published by Dundurn Press.

A note from the authors: In the following answers from Tony, the spelling errors and other gaps are left uncorrected, as they were in his contributions in the book Four Umbrellas, as tangible evidence of the disease’s impact on this writer. 

What is one thing you want readers to take away from Four Umbrellas?

June: Alzheimer’s doesn’t appear overnight. It begins surreptitiously with changes to the brain years before the first signs—sometimes decades before. The famous British novelist Iris Murdoch was an example of this. So is Tony. He looks old, now, and at 71, he is. But we can trace indications of the disease that go back to his 40s and 50s. If readers have time for only one chapter, then—much as I am attached to the whole story of our journey—I recommend that they read “Alzheimer’s By The Numbers” on p. 185. I hope they come away from it not only surprised, but questioning everything they have ever thought of the disease.

Tony: Simply that contracting a disease like Alzheimer’s is now a part of life. The old saying that no one gets out of this alive wasn’t kidding. Granted we would all like to have a beautiful death, with angels singing and doves futering around own bed, but that only happs in medieval pantings. I was lucky enough to find a career that allowed me to indulge ultinant desires to understand people and to help them when I coudd. Granted I did on occasion become a little hardened but I believe I alwas returned to helping & trying to understand.

Is there a particular drink or snack you have on hand when writing?

June: I bring breakfast—coffee and yogurt—to the computer to answer emails straight away. In the afternoons when I settle in to write it’s water when it’s hot out, and tea, otherwise.

Tony: Water. Period.

If you weren’t a writer, what would your dream alternate career be?

June:  If I didn’t write I’d go for my second love: dirt. I love digging for things, unearthing clues. I’m always on the lookout. One time when gardening, a rusted rail spike, another time when hiking in the Yukon, old tin cans and jars from the gold rush. I could be an archaeologist, perhaps, or a geologist, though all the stuff I find has me imagining the stories behind them. And oops that’s writing.

Tony: For my entire life I have wanted to study understand people their relationships with each other, their ways of being, ther ways of living, thinkers and being. I didn’t want the formal rout of getting a dregee in sociology. I thought it was to constrictive and formal. So I became a journalist in order to explore and understand. If I couldn’t do that,  dream career would have been an explorer, going to parts of the earth that were for the most part were dark and unknown.


Lauren Dembicky