When 15-year-old Seth Waller’s mother shows undeniable signs of early onset Alzheimer’s disease, he realizes how little he knows of his family history. His mother never talked about her childhood, not even her maiden name or the town she lived in. Seth never knew his grandparents, and never met any other relatives. He begins researching the disease, manages to get his hands on information identifying other patients near his Texas hometown, and tries to discover genetic links between these patients and his mother.
Meanwhile, Abel Haggard lives a quiet, solitary life on a farm he has gradually sold off for new real estate development. Now in his 70s, Abel has lost everyone dear to him, including his twin brother and his brother’s wife. Abel’s family has also been touched by early onset Alzheimer’s. Both Seth and Abel bring the reader into their world, to share the pain of living and dealing with Alzheimer’s. Through Seth, you helplessly watch a parent’s condition deteriorate, and you share Seth’s fear of inheriting the condition. Abel knows he was spared, but like Seth he loved someone who left him far too young.
The link between Seth and Abel is revealed to the reader before the characters discover it themselves. This adds an element of suspense or anticipation to the story, and an extra layer of depth and complexity. Stefan Block developed rich, memorable characters and showed particular sensitivity in his portrayal of older people and Alzheimer’s sufferers, making for an impressive debut novel.