A woman battles a debilitating brain disease while juggling career and romance issues in this sequel.
Former journalist and educator Franklin (The Raindrop Institute, 2017) continues the saga of Dart Sommers, a 63-year-old North Carolina psychology professor and co-founder of the Raindrop Institute, a research center aimed at vanquishing global poverty. Though she tries to hide it from Classy, Susan, Lynn, and Mary Beth, her four longtime tenants and the institute’s other co-founders, Dart has been experiencing harrowing episodes of dizziness and vision problems. Whether painting on a ladder or displaying odd behavior at work, she sees the condition escalate to panic-inducing proportions. Dart’s family history has complicated her life as well. On his deathbed, her father left his home to her, but conditionally. She would unrealistically have five years to “solve poverty” or the home would be sold. The Raindrop Institute think tank was born, but it has yet to curtail civilization’s collapse. Still, the estate’s attorney deems Dart’s efforts sufficient and grants her ownership of the house, though the decision incites her guilt at not being able to do more. This feeling deepens once her symptoms become debilitating and she sees a physician, who diagnoses her with frontotemporal dementia. This changes everything, not to mention that marriage and family issues intrude on her household, and the tenants begin to leave. Her boss, Jarvis Asher “Ash” White, a widower whose wife perished from FTD, wants her to move in with him, but Dart is unsure; meanwhile, collaborating with a research student reignites the bad blood between her and a colleague. In this resonant and lucid portrayal of a woman facing dire health and job problems, the triple threat of serious work accusations, her missing cousin Ellen, and her deteriorating mental state brings Dart to the brink of a breakdown. But she remains buoyed by efforts to advance the institute’s mission with outreach efforts and Ash’s unconditional support as she declines. Alongside a somewhat grim, melodramatic narrative, Franklin imparts some intriguing, thought-provoking theories about poverty, brain function, ageism, and gender equality (“Did she believe that men alone could save the world? If so, they’d had centuries of male leadership to craft a better world, and it hadn’t worked”). In addition, the author deftly inspires interest in FTD, a “very real disease.”
A rich, thoughtful portrait of a professor in peril both from outside influences and her own body’s betrayal.