Mr. Block has found an unusually roundabout, fanciful way of telling the story of one family's genetic destiny. And The Story of Forgetting does not confine its eccentricity to the distant past. Nothing about Mr. Block's narrative is predictable or even suitably bleak, given the nature of the illness he addresses. Early-onset Alzheimer's disease, made grimmer by the new scientific certitude of genetic testing, is at the heart of this emotional roller coaster of a novel…The Story of Forgetting is a fresh, beguiling novel in what is sure to be the rapidly expanding genre of Alzheimer's literature.
The New York Times
Patrick Lawlor reads the precocious Block's first novel with two markedly different voices for its two protagonists. The hunchbacked, memory-obsessed Abel Haggard is given a broad Southern accent that remains remarkably precise, considering its exaggerated pitch, and Seth Waller, the teenager trapped in an unhappy family, in search of an explanation for his mother's mysterious illness, receives a much flatter, less remarkable, even reading. Lawlor's technique swiftly and easily divides the book's two halves, but his Abel rapidly grows painful to listen to as he is too exaggerated to be much more than a stereotype. Sounding neither convincing nor mellifluous, Lawlor's Abel holds back this otherwise solid audiobook. A Random House hardcover (Reviews, Feb. 4). (July)Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
This riveting novel features well-drawn characters engaged in the epic struggle of finding purpose and meaning in life. Early-onset/familial Alzheimer's disease (EOA) is the launching point for an exploration of memory and the human condition. Fifteen-year-old Seth and 70-year-old Abel alternate as sympathetic narrators of their family's stories. Although they don't meet until the end of the book, the connection between them becomes apparent early on. When Seth's mother is diagnosed with EOA, he assigns himself the task of learning all he can about the disease. Meanwhile, Abel reflects on his past, including his family's struggles with EOA, as he resists encroaching suburban sprawl and waits for the return of his long-gone daughter. The author effectively interweaves several writing styles: historical fiction (the imagined origins of the disease in a medieval English village and its subsequent spread to America); scientific inquiry (explanations of genetics and psychological studies of the brain); fantasy (tales of the mysterious land of Isidora, an alternate world known only to EOA families); Abel's reflective reminiscences; and Seth's coming-of-age in contemporary Texas. The narrators tell painful, funny, heartbreaking stories in authentic voices. An author's note indicates that the novel is semiautobiographical and provides resources for further information about the disease. In addition to being an excellent read, this book would be a wonderful supplement to a psychology class studying memory, or a biology class learning about genetics.-Sondra VanderPloeg, Colby-Sawyer College, New London, NH
Two men, generations apart, try to understand the mystery of Alzheimer's in 24-year-old Brooklyn-based author Block's debut novel. How do individuals make sense of a disease that robs loved ones of their memories and, ultimately, of life? That's the question facing Seth Walker, a smart and sensitive teenager who is trying to cope as his mother declines into a rare early-onset form of Alzheimer's. His father is no help, sinking into his own gin-soaked decline. Only the stories his mother told of the mythical land of Isidora seem to have any relevance, depicting a land where the lack of memory is a blessing and all live in the constant presence of perfect happiness. Those stories are shared by another loner, an elderly hunchback named Abel Haggard, who also heard them from his mother. Abel, whose losses are physical, lives on the shrinking remnants of his family farm. A full life, he feels, has been denied him because of his handicap. His adored, physically fit twin, Paul, came back from the Army emotionally impaired by tragedy. And while the love of his life, Paul's wife Mae, briefly returned his passions, she too withdrew, overcome by guilt. He has even lost his daughter, Jamie, who has fled to New York City. Although only ever acknowledged as Jamie's uncle, Abel helped raise the girl, teaching her to read and, in the process, telling her the stories of Isidora. While the connection between these two stories becomes obvious early on, what makes this novel special is Block's grasp of the emotional devastation wrought by Alzheimer's. For family members, the disease presents a mystifying withdrawal, "a full reversal of a life," as a known, loved individual slips away. Rather than beingsaccharine, the shared sweetness of the Isidora stories, interspersed between chapters as we learn of their roots, highlight the melancholy that must accompany even the closest bonds once this disease has struck. A sensitive fictional interpretation of family tragedy. Agent: Bill Clegg/William Morris Agency
"Compulsive and transporting" ---Publishers Weekly Starred Review