Monday, June 8, 2009

The Story of Forgetting

Another first novel, The Story of Forgetting by Stefan Merrill Block is an interesting story premise. I felt like the book got bogged down at times by all of the facts/information included, but all in all, a good story.

The novel is primarily about a family history of Alzheimer's and includes a lot of factual information. It starts out with the story of Abel Haggard, a 68 year old hunchback man who fell in love with his twin brother's wife, Mae. His twin brother, Paul, left to serve in (I believe) the Korean War and Abel and Mae began an affair that ended in pregnancy. However, Paul came home around that time and so Mae presented that she was pregnant with Paul's child.

Paul and Abel had been born and raised on a farm in High Plains, Texas. They watched their mother slowly slip away into dementia, as had her father before her. All Abel has left of his mother is a book of stories she had written down for the boys about a place called "Isadora", stories that had been passed down within her family.

After returning from the war, Paul and Mae and their daughter moved out of the farmhouse and Able lived there alone, as the world around him began changing. Over the years, Able found himself surrounded by what he called McEstates, suburbs popping up, surrounding what was left of his farm.

Meanwhile, the story goes to 1998 and there is an adolescent boy named Seth who lives hundreds of miles away from High Plains and who is also watching his mother slip away, until his father places her in a home. She is diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer's disease. Seth knows nothing about his mother's background, not even her maiden name and his dad refuses to tell him the little bit that he does know about her, so Seth decides to begin a search for information about his mother. He has little to go on, other than stories that she used to tell him about a place called "Isadora", where there are no memories so nothing is ever lost.

It is a lovely story and some of the writing is just excellent, but then I would get bogged down in some of it, so it sometimes made for difficult reading.

I was captured by the author's writing with the first paragraph of the book:

"I never found a way to fill all the silence. In the months that followed the great tragedy of my life, I sprang from my bed every morning, donned my five-pound, cork-soled boots and did a high-step from room to room, colliding with whatever I could. The silence meant absence and absence meant remembering, and so I made a racket."

And it got even better from here.

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