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At seventy, Abel Haggard is a hermit, resigned to memories of the family he has lost, living in isolation on his family's farm amid the encroaching suburban sprawl of Dallas. Hundreds of miles to the south in suburban Austin, fifteen-year-old Seth Waller is devastated when his mother is diagnosed with a rare, early-onset form of Alzheimer's, and he begins an 'empirical investigation' to uncover the truth about her genetic history. Though neither one knows of the other's existence, Seth and Abel share a unique tradition: as children, both were told stories of Isadora, a fantastical land free from the sorrows of memory. Spanning continents and generations, "The Story of Forgetting" is the tale of how history can become destiny; how the imagination can transform reality; and, how loss, however devastating, can ultimately forge profound meaning. It is the story of the complexity, the pain and the bliss of forgetting.

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Book Details

ISBN: 9780571237463
ISBN-10: 0571237460
Format: Hardback
(241mm x 161mm x 28mm)
Pages: 320
Imprint: Faber & Faber
Publisher: Faber & Faber
Publish Date: 1-May-2008
Country of Publication: United Kingdom

Reviews

US Kirkus Review » 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 being saccharine, 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. (Kirkus Reviews)


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Author Biography - Stefan Merrill Block

Stefan Merrill Block grew up in Plano, Texas, and graduated from Washington University in St Louis in 2004. He is twenty-five years old and this is his first novel. He lives in Brooklyn.

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