My beach books

The first book I read at the beach was Forever Today: A Memoir of Love and Amnesia by Deborah Wearing.  This is the true story of Clive and Deborah Wearing.  Soon after marrying Deborah, conductor and BBC producer, Clive is infected by a simple herpes virus.  The virus that would generally cause a simple cold sore crosses the blood-brain barrier to his brain, causing a terrible infection with fever.  It destroys his hippocampus, the part of the brain that allows us to form new memories.  He becomes, quite unknowingly, the most famous and extreme case of amnesia ever known.  From that point on, he lives in the most immediate present.  He keeps a diary, each entry essentially the same, proclaiming that he has just woken up, and is seeing and hearing for the very first time.  Then each entry is crossed out and a new one written, just a few minutes later, indicating that no, THIS is truly his first conscious moment, as he doesn’t remember writing the previous entry and can’t believe it’s authenticity.  Over and over… for ten years.  He remembers two things, everything musical (he can still play and conduct) and that he loves his Deborah (now darling, as he’s forgotten her name).  She loves him too, but how do you maintain a relationship with someone who can only live moment-by-moment?  It’s a lovely and horrifying love story.

I work with people who have injured brains, many with quite poor memories, although none quite this bad.  Clive’s long-term care-takers must address him formally, as Mr. Wearing, as Clive would seem too informal from the strangers that surrounded him, as everyone had become.  I work with people who will never learn my name (I’m called “Ma’am” a lot), but they know who I am and we can have more personal relationships.  Many do live moment-to-moment, but there is a bit of recognition that knits some of life together (a few people and places, but not events) with repetition.  For Clive, you sense very little of this.  He lives completely disjointed moments in time – over and over again – only lightly glued in time by music and his love for his darling.

Next, I dove into Origin: A Novel by Diana Abu-Jaber.  I don’t often read mystery novels, but I’d heard about this one with protagonist, Lena, a fingerprint analyst, who has so many questions about her past.  Why didn’t her foster parents adopt her?  Why does her foster-mother insist her love should be enough for her?  What about those early memories of a rain forest, leaves, fur, and her ape mother?  And why does this new, very emotional SIDS case seem like it will answer all her questions?  It’s a mystery on many fronts.  Plus, readers get a sense of life for many adoptees – the questions, the daily mysteries, how well-meaning parents who are threatened by their adopted child’s past can hurt them and drive them away, how a flimsy identity based on unanswered questions can affect daily life.  I couldn’t put it down.

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2 Responses

  1. You always read such interesting books. I always feel that if it’s not horror, it’s not worth my time. Both of these sound like excellent books but I doubt I’ll read them. For years now people have been sending me their “must reads” and they are just piling up!

  2. i love book suggestions and will put these on my list of must reads, especially number two.

    have you read the language of blood by jane jeong trenka? adult adoptee memoir, brilliantly written, incredibly painful, triumphant, healing.

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