Wednesday, September 19, 2012
East of Denver by Gregory Hill
Many people will find this book relate to them in some way. Who hasn't lived with or known someone with dementia or alzheimer's and seen all sides of this insidious illness? The protagonist and sometimes narrator, Stacey "Shakespeare" Williams a.k.a. "Shakes," is on his way back from Denver to the old family farm and his father. A quirky cast of old high school friends come back into Shakes' life when he arrives too, both helping and hindering.
His father is living by himself and as Shakes will find out, no one is checking on him. Though he is remarkably able to fix almost anything and is very precise in engineering, he is likely to ask in the midst of putting together amazing pieces of equipment he invented in the past, "Why are we doing this?" Of course, recent memory is what goes first, the past is the present.
The book takes us through the humour and pathos of alzheimer’s...the brilliant flashes of recognition, the sad demise of the person you once knew. But as Gregory Hill demonstrates in this exceptional book, though occasionally crude yet more realistic because of it, he shows that there is still a person there, and we can still learn from him. Although the book is fiction, I feel that the adventure was real. Well, maybe not the airplane but it sure was fun. I identified with this book in so many ways, as I'm sure other readers will, too. Shakes has anosmia and describes it well. This hit a chord as I'm an anosmiac, too (read the book).
The ending is reminiscent of old slapstick movies like the Keystone Kops, or the Pink Panther, but satisfying in a way. Hilarious and gut-wrenching, very well-written story. Gregory Hill has taken to heart the old adage of "keep them guessing."