A tragicomic exploration of the collateral damage of Alzheimer's disease.
"Everyone makes mistakes," says Edie Richter to her wilderness guide, hired for a short trip into the Australian Outback. "I guess it's just learning which ones you can live with," he replies. This conversation, which comes about two-thirds of the way into Handler's striking debut, encapsulates one aspect of the far-reaching existential crisis this loving daughter suffers in the wake of her father's early-onset Alzheimer's diagnosis. When it began, Edie was newly married and living in Boston; she and her husband, Oren, moved back to her hometown of San Francisco to assist with his care. Her mother and younger sister have sold the family auto-parts business, but they're still getting help from her father's longtime employee, Igor, "a gay Croatian who loved Neil Diamond and wore head to toe denim." Amusing details like this, rendered in sharply wrought sentences and brief paragraphs, keep this story of lost moorings light on its feet. "I didn't plan on ending my father's life," Edie explains, "if you can call it a life when a person has essentially become a thing." She also didn't plan on moving to Western Australia, but when her husband's oil-company employer offers a one-year transfer shortly after her father's death, she tells him to accept, thinking maybe she can find her bearings in the middle of nowhere. Ah, poor Edie. Handler gets it right from the title on out. Edie is definitely not alone. Her plight is one many readers will respond to deeply and perhaps even be soothed by. Along those lines, the depiction of Edie's relationship with her somewhat clueless husband, who wants so much to help, hits the perfect note.
Profound yet often quite funny, keenly observed, and deeply affecting.