Very occasionally, I discover a book that forces me to re-evaluate the power of the written word; to reorder my hierarchy of essential reads. ‘The Story of Forgetting’ is such a book. It recounts the lives of a several generations of the same family, affected by early onset Alzheimer’s, and it is a triumph.
It would have been easy to make a mess of this emotive subject, but Stefan Merrill Block, provides just the right levels of pathos, science and comedy to engineer a compulsive read. Often sad but never maudlin, Block draws on the latest scientific research, yet never bamboozles the layman with hard facts.
There is a lightness of touch to Block’s prose that belies the devastating consequences of its subject matter. His metaphors and use of language are second-to-none, making each page a joy to read. The novel’s characters are all incredibly believable; whether Block is describing the trauma felt at watching a loved one slowly fade away, or the trauma of an adolescent boy, attempting to ask out a girl, who is way out of his league, it is done so perfectly. If that wasn’t enough, interleaved into the family’s story, is the beautiful allegorical tale of Isidora, the perfect land where all the inhabitants are blissfully happy but never remember anything.
From its first page to the last, this novel is just about as good as fiction gets and reaffirms what storytelling is for; to provoke thought and emotion in the reader and to encourage them to view the world in a different way. This book has indeed altered the point from which I see the world, and I cannot recommend it highly enough.