From Publishers Weekly
Alzheimer's disease claims more than its victim in Szeman's (The Kommandant's Mistress) delicately structured, poignant novel of love, memory and family responsibility. In and out of foster homes all her life, Claudia Page is 13 when she is finally adopted by a smalltown family. She loves her new mother, Grace, and older brother, Roger, but only when she becomes engaged to Sam Sloane, Roger's best friend, does she feel she really belongs. Sam's mother, Eleanor, welcomes Claudia as the daughter she never had, expressing her love by sharing bits of remembered songs, old photographs and heirloom jewelry. But early on, Eleanor is diagnosed with Alzheimer's, and she becomes increasingly confused, confrontational, forgetful, morbid and violent. When Sam's father dies, Claudia and Sam decide to care for Eleanor themselves, little suspecting how difficult it will be and how their marriage will suffer. After years of their devoted care, Eleanor is found dead of an overdose of prescription pills. Although Sam and Claudia admit that each had occasionally hoped that Eleanor's misery would end with her merciful death, neither is prepared for the ensuing nightmare. Seizing on circumstantial evidence, a power-hungry DA brings Claudia to trial for the murder of her mother-in-law. The story is told from three points of view: Claudia reveals her feelings through sessions with her psychiatrist; Eleanor shares the terror of living inside her own head; and Sam tells his tale through memories dredged up during the trial. As the narrative flits back and forth through time, it becomes clear that neither Sam nor Claudia is an entirely credible witness. It is a credit to Szeman's artistry that perhaps the stricken Eleanor is the most reliable narrator. Though somewhat dated in tone and vague when it comes to specifics of place, the novel is dead-on in its depiction of the destructive power of a disease that can devastate a family. Agent, Jennifer Hengen. (Sept.)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Szeman, author of the brilliant Kommandant's Mistress
(1993), powerfully conveys the devastation wrought by Alzheimer's on family relationships in this novel written from the perspectives of a woman inflicted with the debilitating condition, her daughter-in-law, and her son. Claudia, the daughter-in-law, begins by recalling her own unhappy youth in foster homes and her joy at marrying Sam and gaining a loving mother-in-law in Eleanor. Claudia's recollections are overlaid with conversations with her psychiatrist that slowly reveal the deterioration of a promising relationship, several miscarriages, and a police investigation when Eleanor dies. In flashbacks, Claudia and Sam recall their lives together and the struggle to care for Eleanor in their home after Sam's father dies. After eight years of deterioration, the disease has taken its horrific toll on the three, shattering their closeness. Eleanor's recollections are the painful offerings of a woman losing her bearings in life and searching for a way out of the certain deterioration. Suspicions that Claudia may have assisted Eleanor's death lead to a murder trial and further complicate this story of filial and marital devotion in the face of Alzheimer's. Vanessa BushCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved