In 1988, at age 41, Skloot contracted an airborne virus that disabled his memory and left his brain "pocked with holes." In this book, his second collection of essays, Skloot patiently works against time and the limits of his mind to rebuild what the disease has crippled. The perspective provided by the illness allows him to rediscover his mother; Alzheimer’s has tamed her once mercurial and violent ways, and the author comes to understand her illness as well as the motivation behind her youthful wrath. Though both mother and son both are irrevocably changed, Skloot discovers illumination in what remains.
University of Nebraska. 199 pages. $24.95. ISBN: 0803243189
San Francisco Chronicle
"Skloot knows something of grace, but he has left failure far behind. He has painstakingly rebuilt his life and his art, shaping the experience of crippling illness into dazzling literature." Mark Essig
"He deploys his damaged self as a sort of interpreter, able to understand both the helpless woman before him, and the enraged woman who once inhabited her body and brain." Kimberly Marlowe Hartnett
"Buttressing the story are fascinating details about how and what we remember, why emotionally tinged memories stay more powerfully in our mind, and how Skloot’s writing keeps the virus that seems hellbent on quieting him at bay." Caroline Leavitt
"He delivers a clear-headed account full of warmth, insight and wit." Karen McCowan
The current memoir vogue would have Skloot belaboring the tortures he endured at the hands of his mother, all piled upon more hand-wringing, blame, and navel-gazing through dilated pupils. Though his understated approach has probably consigned him to a university press (a place where he’s comfortable; he’s an accomplished poet after all), the critics that bother to take notice of this small book find it, like his first essay collection In the Shadow of Memory ( Sept/Oct 2003), a masterful effort. Words like "nourishing" and "grace" paint a fair picture of reviewers’ tones; they respect his accomplishment as much as they respect the effort that must have gone into creating it. It makes one believe that, if we only remembered what was important, life might be much more rewarding.