Scar Tissue

Scar Tissue

by Michael Ignatieff
     
 

At the heart of Michael Ignatieff's riveting novel about a woman's descent into neurological illness are the tangled threads of a Midwestern family, frayed by time and tragedy yet still connected - as much by pride, embarrassed love, and sibling rivalry as by the painful ties of familial loyalty. A philosophy professor watches helplessly as his mother sinks into the… See more details below

Overview

At the heart of Michael Ignatieff's riveting novel about a woman's descent into neurological illness are the tangled threads of a Midwestern family, frayed by time and tragedy yet still connected - as much by pride, embarrassed love, and sibling rivalry as by the painful ties of familial loyalty. A philosophy professor watches helplessly as his mother sinks into the mysterious depths of an unknown illness. His efforts to understand her gradual deterioration - from innocently misplaced eyeglasses and endlessly repeated anecdotes to a total loss of identity - lead him to reach out to his estranged brother, a neurologist, to learn all he can of the disease. Yet medical science is as powerless as philosophy to help them comprehend what is happening to her and to them, to explain the relation between brain and mind, between memory and selfhood, between heart and soul. The narrator, distrusting the usual explanations for his mother's tragedy, begins, dangerously, to lose his own bearings, as he senses how deeply his family - and life - have been transformed. Yet Scar Tissue affirms the power of true understanding, and at the end: "The owl is calling from the trees. Its hunt is about to begin. The moon hovers over the city and white light streams across the ivied floor of the park. I feel life calling me from this desk. I feel it bid me rise and walk out..."

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
This searching, poignant account of a woman's descent into Alzheimer's disease and her son's debilitating existential fear and guilt is a cri de coeur that was shortlisted for the Booker Prize. While the subject has been treated before, Ignatieff ( Aysa ) brings to it highly honed powers of observation and a philosophic turn of mind. The title refers to ``the dark starbursts of scar tissue'' that indicate a brain being destroyed. Haunted by the genetic predisposition to Alzheimer's in his mother's family, the narrator describes each harrowing stage of her illness, meanwhile speculating about the loss of selfhood when language and memory are obliterated. There is irony in his insight that ``we have just enough knowledge to know our fate but not enough to do anything to avert it.'' The ramifications of the mother's decline destroy the family: the narrator ascribes his father's fatal heart attack, the demise of his own marriage, a break with his brother and his months of crippling depression as inescapable consequences. At times, one becomes impatient with the narrator's self-destructive behavior, his utter despair and his emotional estrangement from his wife and children. Though the prose is carefully restrained, as the book reaches its climax there is a tinge of melodrama and excess that does, however, accurately convey the narrator's conviction that he cannot escape his mother's fate. (Sept.)
Library Journal - Library Journal
In this fictionalized account of a mother's death from Alzheimer's disease told from the perspective of a son, Ignatieff (Asya, LJ 9/15/91) examines the relationships between life, consciousness, disease, and death. Father was a Russian migr and soil chemist, Mother was a painter with a family history of the disease, and their two sons have grown up to become a neurological researcher and a philosophy professor. It is the philosopher who tells the story, dipping into childhood memories as he recounts embarrassing and excrutiating details of his mother's decline and death. The philosopher probes unceasingly to comprehend his mother's degree of understanding as her memory and sense of self shrink, admiring the abstract beauty of the brain scan that the neurologist dispassionately interprets. And it is the philosopher who finds the seeds of the same disease inside himself. This novel is both beautiful in its quiet celebration of each moment of life and almost unbearable in its exploration of questions most often unasked. This awesome piece of work should be in most collections. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 5/1/94.]-Michele Leber, Fairfax Cty. P.L., Va.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780701141738
Publisher:
Random House Adult Trade Publishing Group
Publication date:
07/27/1993
Pages:
224

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