The Story of Forgetting
A NovelBook - 2008
Abel Haggard is an elderly hunchback who haunts the remnants of his family's farm in the encroaching shadow of the Dallas suburbs, adrift in recollections of those he loved and lost long ago. As a young man, he believed himself to be "the one person too many"; now he is all that remains. Hundreds of miles to the south, in Austin, Seth Waller is a teenage "Master of Nothingness"-a prime specimen of that gangly, pimple-rashed, too-smart breed of adolescent that vanishes in a puff of sarcasm at the slightest threat of human contact. When his mother is diagnosed with a rare form of early-onset Alzheimer's, Seth sets out on a quest to find her lost relatives and to conduct an "empirical investigation" that will uncover the truth of her genetic history. Though neither knows of the other's existence, Abel and Seth are linked by a dual legacy: the disease that destroys the memories of those they love, and the story of Isidora-an edenic fantasy world free from the sorrows of remembrance, a land without memory where nothing is ever possessed, so nothing can be lost.
Through the fusion of myth, science, and storytelling, this novel offers a dazzling illumination of the hard-learned truth that only through the loss of what we consider precious can we understand the value of what remains.
From the Hardcover edition.
From the critics
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This summary is for the purpose of helping me remember the story; spoiler alert. Seth and Able tell their stories in alternating chapters. Able has a humpback deformity and his twin, Paul, was something of a golden boy. Able fell in love with his twin's wife, Mae, and slept with her, resulting in a daughter, Jaimie. He presumed the child to be his because Paul, it turned out, was gay. Paul's golden era ended when he fell prey to the family curse of early-onset Alzheimer's. Able was perpetually and eternally sad, but didn't inherit the Alzheimer's gene. Meanwhile, Seth's mother developed Alzheimer's, and Seth, at age 15, began a passionate but uneducated attempt at learning about others who had the same strain of the disease; everyone who had that particular strain must be all related. Seth's mother told him stories about a land called Isidora, where meanness and anxiety were absent. Isidorans didn't speak, but they felt love and peace for and from each other until an interloper from the outside world introduced sadness and anger. Seth's mother, in her Alzheimer's fog, sought to return to her childhood home, which was right near the entrance to Isidora. Seth and his father helped her get there, and discovered an old, old man (Able) in a tumble-down house. Able gave Seth the book of tales HIS mother had told him, and had written down, about Isidora. It turns out that Seth's mother is Jaimie, Able's daughter with Mae.
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