From Publishers Weekly
A famed neuroscientist learns potent lessons about the fallibility of memory in Baldwin's underwhelming debut, a highbrow melodrama that stretches for resonance and is narrated by noted Alzheimer's researcher Dr. Victor Aaron, who works at a small but prestigious Maine lab and grieves the death of his screenwriter wife, Sara. Victor finds a series of note cards that recount key moments in their 33-year marriage, but Victor's memories of the same events are either missing or differ, and it becomes clear there were longstanding issues in the marriage--notably that Victor felt threatened by Sara's success and wasn't supportive of her work. Victor does the normal confused and grieving middle-aged man things--becomes fixated on his laments, takes a younger lover--and eventually finds himself hosting his goddaughter, Cornelia, who inadvertently provides the clue that allows Victor to discover Sara's final, unfinished screenplay. Sara's perspective--here limited to her note cards--is affecting and provides the novel its best moments. Unfortunately, readers are stuck for the most part with Victor, whose unsympathetic culpability and fundamental blandness sap narrative energy and make much of the novel feel like filler.
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Months after his wife, Sara, is killed in a car accident, Dr. Victor Aaron is still in the throes of mourning, although he has rather peculiar ways of showing it. By day, Aaron functions as a dedicated lab rat, heading groundbreaking research and trolling for corporate grants. By night, he conducts a sexually intense but ultimately unsatisfying affair with a considerably younger graduate student named Regina, whom he pursues to the point of stalking. Further complicating his recovery are his weekly command-performance dinners with his wife's elderly aunt Betsy and the sudden appearance of his goddaughter, Cornelia, who moves in with him while interning at a local restaurant. Amid the chaos, Aaron spends his insomnia-fueled nights combing through Sara's belongings until the discovery of a series of disturbing notes, in which she chronicled the tumultuous years of their marriage, sends him into further despair. Baldwin's manic debut novel delivers a capricious, poignant, yet oddly perceptive account of the quixotic nature of relationships and the fallacies of memory. --Carol Haggas