The Half-life of Every­thing

Deb­o­rah Carol Gang Ban­croft Press (SEPTEM­BER) Hard­cover $25 (320pp) 978-1-61088-233-0

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Deb­o­rah Carol Gang’s The Half-life of Every­thing cen­ters on David and Kate, a mar­ried cou­ple eas­ing con­tent­edly to­ward mid­dle age. They have two adult sons and decades of shared mem­o­ries. Then Kate be­gins to ex­pe­ri­ence early-on­set Alzheimer’s dis­ease. The ill­ness grad­u­ally robs her of her mem­o­ries, along with her in­de­pen­dence and her iden­tity.

As the novel be­gins, Kate has moved into an as­sisted liv­ing fa­cil­ity; her con­di­tion seems to be on a pro­gres­sive de­cline. David has been car­ing for his wife for sev­eral years. Aside from some ex­per­i­men­tal treat­ments, Kate’s doc­tors can’t sin­cerely of­fer much hope.

Ven­tur­ing into un­easy yet truth­ful ter­ri­tory, The Half-life of Every­thing ex­plores David’s per­spec­tive and the frus­trated sad­ness of his cur­rent sit­u­a­tion. Only in his late fifties, he misses the phys­i­cal and men­tal in­ti­macy of his mar­riage. Kate po­litely ac­knowl­edges his vis­its but of­fers lit­tle ac­tual con­nec­tion. He ques­tions his fidelity and in­tegrity, yet he still feels like he is in limbo—not di­vorced or wid­owed and free to pur­sue other re­la­tion­ships, but yearn­ing for more than the shad­owy void of Kate’s ab­sence.

Though David does find Jane, an un­der­stand­ing new ro­man­tic part­ner, the story de­vel­ops with quiet fi­nesse be­yond their in­volve­ment. Kate’s trial med­i­ca­tion be­gins to show re­mark­able re­sults, and she finds her­self re­turn­ing to a life she once knew quite well, although both she and that life have changed.

Through its shift­ing nar­ra­tive and quirky, en­gag­ing char­ac­ters, The Half-life of Every­thing bal­ances hu­mor, can­dor, melan­choly, and warmth. While Kate’s Alzheimer’s bat­tle is in­te­gral to the plot, it is her re­cov­ery from the con­di­tion and her cau­tiously de­ter­mined reen­try into be­ing her­self that cre­ate the cu­ri­ous fu­ture no one ex­pected her to have.

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