The Story of Forgetting – Stefan Merrill Block

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The Story of Forgetting

Five words from the blurb: Alzheimer’s, truth, forgetting, family, history

The Story of Forgetting is a novel about a rare form of Alzheimer’s that affects sufferers at a devastatingly young age. Seth is just fifteen-years-old when his mother is diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s. He realises that he knows very little about her past and so decides to investigate, discovering some surprising secrets about her childhood.

An intertwining narrative describes the life of twins, one of whom has the condition and one who doesn’t. The use of twins to show the decline in ability was extremely effective and led to some of the most touching scenes in the novel.

The book was inspired by real events in the author’s family history and combines detailed scientific information on the condition with a gripping narrative. The book shows the difficulties faced by the families of those affected, explains the history of the disease, and goes some way towards explaining how the brain is affected. This means that it is more than just a story and could also be used as a piece of reference material for those interested in learning about early-onset Alzheimer’s.

The human mind knows itself the least. The human mind may be able to trace the origin of life through billions of years to hydrothermal vents in the ocean’s floor, it may be able to comprehend and replicate the means by which the sun produces energy, it may even be able to describe events that took place at the beginning of the universe, 13.7 billion years ago, but when it comes to exactly how we have made these discoveries, exactly how our thoughts are thought, we know a minuscule amount. And much of what little we do know we’ve learned indirectly and for the saddest reasons, by the ways the mind malfunctions.

The large amount of science meant that it didn’t have the emotional impact of other books on the subject, but I think this could be seen as a good thing. There were some sad scenes, but overall I found this book to be more informative than emotional. Some people will probably find the science too detailed, but I appreciated the way in which the studies weren’t dumbed down for a mainstream audience.

The plot was clever and although I found much of it predicable there were still a few surprises sprinkled through the text.

I recommend this book to anyone interested in Alzheimer’s and the quality of the writing means that I am keen to try Stefan Merrill Block’s new novel, The Storm at the Door, when it is released later this year.

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The thoughts of other bloggers:

This novel touched my heart with its sensitive portrayal of the human suffering associated with Alzheimer’s Disease.  Caribousmom

….some of the passages about the origin of life and memory and human evolution were just gorgeous.  Fyrefly’s Book Blog

……it’s a book to read slowly, and savor. Boston Bibliophile


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14 Comments

  1. Andi says:

    Really interesting review, and an odd but promising book. One I’d be willing to try, for sure. :)

    1. Jackie says:

      Andi, it is great to hear that it appeals to you. It is an original book and I hope that you enjoy it as much as I did.

  2. Steph says:

    I’m sure I’ve said it before but I love novels that explore questions of memory, so this sounds like a book I would love. I’ve never heard of this author or this title, so thanks for bringing it to my attention!

    1. Jackie says:

      Steph, I think you’d love this book – it taught me a lot about the brain as well as being entertaining. I hope you decide to pick it up at some point.

  3. Fyrefly says:

    It’s been a while since I read this, but I think the passage you quoted is exactly the one I was referring to! :)

    1. Jackie says:

      Fyrefly, I did think that when I read your review, but so many passages were outstanding. This is one of those books you can flip open on almost any page and find a fantastic quote.

  4. Vasilly says:

    I’ve been on the wall about this book for the past few years. I’m glad to finally see a review about it since it’s been sitting on my shelf for a long time. I think I’ll give it a try. ;-)

    1. Jackie says:

      Vasilly, This book has been on my shelf for quite a while too, but I’m glad I finally took it down. I hope that you enjoy it as much as I did.

  5. Alex Baugh says:

    I have never been able to decide whether I want to read this book. An old friend and neighbor who had Alzheimer’s just passed away and it was so hard watching the deterioration. Maybe now I will be able to read it, especically since you say it is more science than emotion.

    1. Jackie says:

      Alex, I’m sure you’ll find a few sections sad, but I didn’t have to get the tissues out at all when reading this book. I think you’d find this book helpful rather than depressing.

  6. Sandy says:

    This book totally intrigues me, and speaks to me personally because my grandmother had Alzheimers. And I am completely convinced this is how I am going to go too, based on my constant issues with forgetfulness. It is a scary, scary thing to watch someone go through, and even scarier imagining it happen to yourself.

    1. Jackie says:

      Sandy, I think it must be much more traumatic to watch a loved one go through Alzheimer’s than to actually suffer from it yourself, but let’s hope we don’t have the chance to compare the two. I think that you’d enjoy reading this book so I hope you decide to pick it up.

  7. Alex says:

    Good premise and glad to see the writing does it justice. I really liked the cover so went to dig out the name of the illustrator. it seems he’s done a lot of stuff I’ve noticed before: http://designedbydavid.co.uk/fiction/1

    1. Jackie says:

      Alex, Thanks for the link – I recognise a lot of his work now that I’ve seen it all together. He is one talented guy :-)

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