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Saturday, April 19, 2008

So far this year, Iíve read two books with characters who have Alzheimerís disease. This wasnít planned; it just happened that these books came across my path and I read them. The first is a real book with paper pages and a hard cover, and the character is an old woman whose memory is jagged and fragmented, bits and pieces of time that come to her suddenly and then go away the same way.

The character in the other book (which Iím currently reading on Kindle) is a much younger woman with early-onset Alzheimerís, an entirely different strain of the disease. She drifts away from her family so gradually, and at such a young age, that if anything itís a more frustrating situation for her and everyone around her. Itís also inherited, and one of the narrative threads in the novel (and there are several) is the search for her lineage, after sheís too far gone to talk about it.

The point is that as Iíve read this second book and become familiar with the character, and more and more people with the disease are portrayed, some of them seem, especially in the early stages, not that different from me. And so I started to wonder about myself. Now, I know I donít have the disease. For one thing, Iím about fifteen or twenty years beyond the age it would have appeared if I did. But Iím always susceptible to suggestion, and it is something to think about.

Well, you know, this is why we read fiction, isnít it? To dive so deeply into the lives of others that we forget for a time who we are. (Or is that just a symptom?) In the end, I think it turns all the way around to the point where we learn more about ourselves, so it really illuminates who we are. At least, thatís the reason Iím reading three novels at one time right now, and enjoying them all.

18 April 2008

The birch tree that snapped in half in January isn't dead after all!
(At least, not the half that's still connected to the ground.)

The character with Alzheimerís disease is not the main character in either of these two books, and both are highly recommended (by me, so consider the source). The first is The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox, by Maggie OíFarrell. The other is The Story of Forgetting: A Novel, by Stefan Merrill Block (released earlier this month). Iím only about two-thirds of the way through this one, so if after finishing it I have to revise my recommendation, Iíll let you know. I canít imagine that happening, though.

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