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You Lost Me There Hardcover – August 12, 2010
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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.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
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
Top customer reviews
Victor Aaron is a fairly well-known Alzheimer's researcher running a university lab in Maine. He is struggling with the recent death of his screenwriter wife, Sara, with whom he had only recently gotten back together after an estrangement. One sleepless night he finds a stack of index cards on which Sara was chronicling what she determined to be the instances in their marriage where their relationship changed direction. (This was an exercise recommended to them by a marriage counselor.) As Victor reviews more and more of the cards, he realizes his perceptions of their marriage--and some of his memories of their relationship--differed significantly from Sara's, which leads him to question much of their past. This soul-searching, plus his encounters with his childhood best friend, his goddaughter, his lab director, his wife's eccentric aunt and a woman with whom he has had a romantic encounter, leads Victor to at least a few moments of reckoning.
I really enjoyed the general premise of this book, as it tried to examine the concept of what makes a memory, and how two people might see the same situation completely differently. Baldwin is a gifted writer and I found the story very readable and compelling. I did struggle, however, because I didn't find any of the characters very appealing at first glance (and some characters had so many quirks they never appealed to me). I just couldn't understand why Victor wanted to deal with so many unpleasant people. But that's what life is about: taking the good with the bad. And that was the appeal of You Lost Me There: some parts I loved and some parts I didn't.
The book's main theme is a sly one: Dr. Victor Aaron, Ph.D. and Alzheimer's expert, seems to have a different memory of his marriage to recently deceased wife than she had. Her memories are revealed, one by one, in a series of index cards she'd written for counseling sessions in which she was asked by her therapist to recount five 'turning points' in her marriage. The discovery of these notes and their content come as a shock and comeuppance to Dr. Aaron, both in terms of Sara's clear disappointment (and, sometimes, anger) towards him and in the conflicts they produce in terms of matching his recollections to hers. To his consternation, third parties side confirm her versions.
What becomes slowly clear over the almost 300 pages of this work is that Victor has never fully processed Sara's untimely death. When the force of it does finally hit him some months beyond, his unraveling is very public and not at all pretty. [A great scene for a movie.]
This story is unique, the writing style is exquisite and original. From the
moment I opened "You Lost Me There" and started reading it, I was pulled into
one of the best books I have read recently. Reading it became a sheer delight
for me. The plot is multi-layered and tightly woven, so much so that you only
realize its magnitude when you reflect back on it. This book will last with you
for long after you are done, you will be turning it over in your head and
contemplating reading it a second time.
I will eagerly be anticipating Mr Baldwin's next book!