An aging man revisits his most meaningful relationships as he grapples with dementia.
Ramey's novel begins with a few lines of almost-illegible handwriting followed by a pair of sentences that set out the images that will recur throughout the book: “The handwriting didn’t look like his. Neither did the hand.” Protagonist Raymond sits in solitude, looking back over his life, from going off to fight in World War II to his relationships with the people closest to him. Complicating matters is Raymond’s mind, which is slipping into dementia. Ramey’s evocation of Raymond’s loss of language and fragmented mental state makes for some of the book’s most unsettling segments: “Though he couldn’t always call the numbers for the hour anymore or even the name for the—the moon...that is, the mano—the...first part of the day.” Later, Ramey illustrates his protagonist's distress more straightforwardly: “the sudden wonder that all his memories were just half-seen things and that words had become accidents he suffered.” Raymond’s is a life beset with heartache; in passing, Ramey reveals that his mother died in childbirth. His father, Vic, and son, David, both loom large in the proceedings, but most of his thoughts are occupied with his relationships with two women, Clara and Ellen—and his regrets over how he treated them both. “Raymond had fooled himself. Or lied, really. Told himself it was a thing a good man could do—hold two women separate like stones without hurting anybody.” The blend of fractured memories and long-held regrets doesn’t always come together neatly, but the book’s cyclical structure makes for an affecting conclusion.
Frequently moving even as it charts the limitations of memory.