A woman suffering from early Alzheimer’s finds romance in an assisted living facility while an abandoned wife restarts her life in the intertwined narratives that make up this second novel.
At 38, Anna is an energetic, tart-tongued, motorcycle-riding paramedic. Actually that’s who she was, just before she starts telling us her story. Diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, Anna leaves her husband and winds up in a residential facility in New Jersey called Rosalind House, which caters to frail old people and a couple of memory-challenged younger ones. Anna’s voice feels very true; particularly in the early chapters, she’s still cogent enough to describe her deterioration, and her descriptions are precise and harrowing. The second voice we hear belongs to Eve, 35, who finds employment as a cook/housekeeper at Rosalind House after her highflying financier husband flames out à la Bernie Madoff. Eve and her young daughter, Clementine, must adjust to drastically reduced living circumstances and endure the slings and arrows of those who know what Eve’s husband did. (Clementine narrates a few chapters in a voice that seems less authentic than the other two.) At work, Eve takes a shine to Anna and eventually risks her job to allow Anna to pursue a relationship with Luke, an attractive, young fellow patient. Eve also finds a love interest, a development you’ll spot miles away. Though likable and sympathetic, she’s far more two-dimensional than Anna. Perhaps Hepworth, who got some positive attention for her debut novel, The Secret Lives of Midwives (2015), feared this book would be too grim with Anna as the main focus.
A lot happens here—too much really, especially in the last, somewhat improbable chapters—but it’s a definite page-turner. It’s also uneven, with genuinely poignant moments brushing up against cheesy ones.