DEB­O­RAH CAROL GANG The Half-life of Every­thing

Foreword Reviews - - Reviews Adult Fiction - 978-1-61088-233-0, Ban­croft Press, ban­croft­press.com

An early-on­set Alzheimer’s di­ag­no­sis is dif­fi­cult for pa­tient and fam­ily alike. What mo­ti­vated you to write this story from a spouse’s per­spec­tive?

Most of us can pic­ture the grad­ual loss of our part­ner to ill­ness, but what is harder to en­vi­sion is what if it doesn’t end? What if she is here but gone? Plac­ing the fam­ily in pur­ga­tory al­lows the griev­ing spouse and chil­dren to be the fo­cus. It also set me up for the welcome chal­lenge of al­low­ing the reader to know Kate through her fam­ily’s mem­o­ries of healthy Kate. Her hus­band and sons like to imag­ine pithy com­ments she would make, or what she would have thought of her son’s derelict col­lege ren­tal house.

In this ver­sion of a fa­mil­iar story of loss, you tease us by en­vi­sion­ing what it would be like if Kate could be well again. Was it chal­leng­ing to write about such a pos­si­bil­ity?

It’s nat­u­ral to think long­ingly of a per­son we’ve lost and at times in­dulge in “if only” and “what if.” It was both painful and sat­is­fy­ing to imag­ine how some­one would feel if they could re­cover from a cat­a­strophic brain dis­ease: em­bar­rass­ment at hav­ing been so di­min­ished, grief over what was lost, joy over re­union and re­dis­cov­ery. I felt a free­dom to con­jec­ture be­cause, as I know from be­ing a ther­a­pist, and as I have Kate say in the novel, no one re­ally knows how they’ll re­spond to a big new event. We are quite bad at pre­dict­ing our­selves.

The ti­tle of the book is su­perb. Can you tell us why it works so well with the novel’s sub­ject mat­ter?

To me, at its core, all fic­tion is about ag­ing, no mat­ter which gen­er­a­tion fea­tures in the plot. We are each some­where along the half-life of our al­lot­ted span. We just never know for sure what ex­act por­tion is be­ing di­vided and then di­vided again. Three gen­er­a­tions ap­pear in this novel, and ev­ery char­ac­ter is at a dif­fer­ent and un­known point in their own half-life. In ad­di­tion to the sci­en­tific def­i­ni­tion of halflife, there is an­other more in­for­mal one: a brief pe­riod dur­ing which some­thing flour­ishes be­fore dy­ing out. Could any­one de­scribe life in fewer or more beau­ti­ful words?

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