The Story Of Forgetting by: Stefen Merrill Block - Book Review

No one can accuse Stefen Merrill Block of cowardice. For his debut novel, The Story of Forgetting, Mr. Block chose to attempt alternating narrators of widely varying age, fantasy fused with science fact, and a heartrending look at the devastation of Alzheimer’s disease.

The alternating protagonists are the aging Abel Haggard, a hunchbacked recluse whose long lost loves fill his memory, and Seth Waller, a teenage outcast whose family has been devastated by his mother’s early-onset Alzheimer’s. It doesn’t require much prudence to perceive that Abel and Seth’s worlds are on a collision course. The fact that they’ve both heard stories of the mythical land of Isidora as children and are linked to a genetic Alzheimer’s propagating ancestor cement the looming connection.

Mr. Block does a fine job alternating between the mature Abel and the youthful Seth. I especially liked Abel. I found his voice to be pained with poignant wisdom as well as comedy. I wanted him to find some resolution. However, while Seth started out well, I soon grew weary of his technical jargon. I lost sight of his bogged down character and found myself skipping large chunks of his sections to avoid the scientific mumbo-jumbo. I wasn’t reading a fictional tale in hopes of learning Alzheimer’s genetic temperament or pretend history.

As for the inclusion of the Isidora fantasyland where memory is lost to peace, I am torn. I like the idea of blending fantasy with realism. It’s one of my favorite forms of writing and Mr. Block makes a gallant effort. But somewhere along the way, he lost his footing. Isidora might have worked better embedded into the tale (instead of stand alone) or it might have been improved by less scientific rumblings from Seth. Four alternating fragments are a hard task to meld for even a weathered writer.

All in all, I have to praise Stefen Merrill Block’s freshman effort. The story was unique and the characters were mostly engaging. Attempting four alternating fragmentary sections was brave, if flawed. His personal postscript was insightful. I’d recommend this story to those interested in Alzheimer’s disease or family relationships in the wake of tragedy.

Read from an advanced copy. Available in USA on April 1, 2008.

Buy The Story of Forgetting HERE

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