Review: An Absent Mind by Eric Rill

Posted 12 January, 2015 by DLWhite in Reviews, Writers Read 0 Comments

An Absent Mind Book Cover An Absent Mind
Eric Rill
March 1, 2014
NetGalley/Avante Press

"An absent mind", a riveting new novel from Eric Rill, is about a race against time. The ticking time bomb is Saul Reimer's sanity. His Alzheimer's is going to be the catalyst that will either bring his family together or tear it apart. It is equally a story about his relationship with his loved ones and their shared journey. Seventy-one, and a man used to controlling those around him, Saul finds himself helplessly slipping into the abyss in what he describes as his slow dance with death. As we listen in on his ramblings, humor, emotions, lucid moments, and confusion, we are also privy to the thoughts and feelings his family share with us - his wife, Monique, conflicted and depressed; caring, yet angry; his daughter, Florence, compassionate, worried about her father's health, yet proper and reserved; his son, Joey, self-centered and narcissistic, seemingly distant from his family's challenges. And Dr. Tremblay, Saul's Alzheimer's specialist, who provides the reader with facts and observations about this dreaded disease that imprisons more than 35 million people worldwide"

I received a copy of this book from the Publisher and

An Absent Mind by Eric Rill is a multi-POV novel about a man who’s just been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease. My Uncle passed away from the disease in 2012 and ever since I read Lisa Genova’s Still Alice  (which prompted a character in my own novel, Brunch at Ruby’s- still in editing!), I’ve been keenly interested in the topic of Alzheimer’s, particularly Early Onset. As I read story after story, I make a mental note, sort of a checklist of symptoms, emotions, occurrences of not only the patient but the caretaker, the family and friends.

I found this book to be educational from an experience point of view, but clinical and flat. It was a telling and not a ‘showing’, to use a writing cliche. Sometimes it works, to just talk about day and and day out– I find stories about Schizophrenia to flow better that way because the changes are manic. The pendulum swings drastically to one side or the other in short bursts of time. With Alzheimer’s, the descent is slow. The day to day doesn’t make for dramatic storytelling– and I understand this may not have been the author’s goals– but the end result is an unemotional, straightforward account of a few years of Saul’s life.

To me, even the chapters with Monique, his wife, Florence, his daughter and his son Joey are devoid of the  confusion, anger, sadness, and other emotions that I expect to see in a novel about your father, diagnosed terminally ill. Your father, whom you will watch die. Your mother, who will suffer the most. It just… didn’t make me feel.

The writing itself, however, was great. The chapters with Saul are enlightening, specifically when he’s paranoid, when his memory fails him, when he remembers a big word. His lucid yet confused state of mind comes through in the prose and I always find it interesting how patients know they are ill but still hold so strongly to what they know and what they remember and not what is being told. Saul doesn’t remember beating up his wife, or causing a scene on the cruise and because he doesn’t remember it, it didn’t happen and Monique is lying. The denial at each stage is what must be physically exhausting.

An Absent Mind was good, quick read, only 278 pages. Interesting, it held my attention, but it wasn’t.. entertaining. Not that a book needs to be.

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