Stein's fourth novel (after 2000's The Lynching Tree) is a sensitive meditation on the trials of caring for a deteriorating parent. The story begins as the unnamed narrator arranges for his estranged mother to move into a retirement community near his home, where "every vent... blew hot air that smelled like pot roast." His visits are regular, perfunctory and emotionally confusing: "I could now tell my mother all my most private thoughts because she would remember none of them." At first uncertain only about names and dates, his mother eventually needs constant supervision and care. Poignantly, the narrator grows closer to her, cultivating forgiveness for a childhood filled with betrayal and abandonment, and nurturing a love he has not felt in decades. Stein paints a clear, insightful portrait of the frustrations and indignities experienced by Alzheimer's sufferers and caregivers alike, and he also muses on the craft of writing itself. In regular interludes labeled "Reader's Guide," the narrator questions aspects of his story, including his choice of viewpoint, tone and form. These interruptions are odd, but offer a surprising intimacy: "Imagine the literary problems set before an author who wants to write a narrative about Alzheimer's disease," he writes. But Stein's prose is always sharp and assured, even in its moments of query. (Sept.) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.