Saturday, March 29, 2014

REVIEW: "The Art of Forgetting" by Peter Palmieri (Virtual Book Tour Cafe)

Sooooooooo, awhile back I did a post about an awesome looking book that I didn't have time to read when it was touring.  The author graciously allowed me to have a copy of the book in return for a review when I had time.  Shamefacedly, I admit it took me far longer to read it than I expected, but here is my review for....

"Dr. Lloyd Copeland is a young neurologist who is tormented by the conviction that he has inherited the severe, early-onset dementia that has plagued his family for generations – the very disease which spurred his father to take his own life when Lloyd was just a child. Withdrawn to a life of emotional detachment, he looks for solace in hollow sexual trysts as a way to escape his throbbing loneliness. Still, he clings to the hope that the highly controversial treatment for memory loss he’s been researching will free him from his family’s curse.

But when odd mishaps take place in his laboratory, his research is blocked by a hospital review board headed by Erin Kennedy: a beautiful medical ethicist with a link to his troubled childhood. The fight to salvage his reputation and recover the hope for his own cure brings him face to face with sordid secrets that rock his very self-identity. And to make matters worse, he finds himself falling irretrievably in love with the very woman who seems intent on thwarting his efforts."


Genre: fiction: medical (medical suspense)
Publisher: self
Rel  ease date: June 2013

ABOUT THE AUTHOR - Peter Palmieri
Peter Palmieri was raised in the eclectic port city of Trieste, Italy. He returned to the United States at the age of 14 with just a suitcase and an acoustic guitar. After attending public high school in San Diego, California, he earned his bachelor’s degree in Psychology and Animal Physiology from the University of California, San Diego. He received his medical degree from Loyola University Stritch School of Medicine and completed his pediatric training at the University of Chicago and Loyola University Medical Center. More recently, he was awarded a Healthcare MBA by The George Washington University. A former student of Robert McKee's Story seminar and the SMU Writer's Path program, and a two-time attendee of the SEAK Medical Fiction seminar taught by Tess Gerritsen and Michael Palmer, Peter is now busy practicing general pediatrics at a large academic medical center while working on his next medical suspense.


I received a review copy of this book in return for a fair and honest review, which follows:

Alzheimers in one of the most devastating diseases to ravage families across this grand planet.  Slowly stripping individuals of their memories, it brutally robs individuals of their identities while completely changing how their families operate.  Many of my friends have loved ones who have succumbed to this hideous monster of a disease, and I've watched the devastation unfold.  Memories make us who we are.  But what if all that could be changed?  But what if a cure is not worth the risk?

Written with a medical accuracy only possible from someone who has worked in the medical field, The Art of Forgetting is a masterpiece of medical and psychological suspense.  This artful novel follows part of the story of Lloyd Copeland, an esteemed doctor who has devoted his life to the search for a cure for Alzheimer's, a brutal identity thieving disease which affected his father, and his father's father before him.  For Lloyd, it is only a matter of time.  He must find this cure.  He is so close to finding a cure....but at what cost?  

A suspenseful plot that includes medical mystery, psychological discovery, romance, and a sinister plot to ruin someone's career for the sake of riches - this novel has a little something for everyone.  Even my husband was intrigued, and he doesn't read fiction.  

Palmieri, an esteemed medical professional himself, is a superb author.  He successfully creates a character who is about as huggable as a porcupine on crack, but that you just want to keep hugging despite the quills.  Medical situations are crafted with a clear insider's knowledge of how the medical world actually operates.  The plot unfolds in a complex manner that is twisted but not confusing.  My only quibbles with the book are thus: during some conversation scenes it is hard to track who is talking, and it is so infinitely detailed that in several scenes I got lost in minutia.  Otherwise, a superb book.  Part of me hopes Lloyd's story continues...

On an ascending scale of 1 to 5, this book receives a 4.

The Good
I absolutely loved this book.  This morning when I was finishing reading, my husband was asking me to "get've been awake for an hour already!"  My response?  "I'm finishing the book I've been reading!!"

The Art of Forgetting is one of the most intricate and psychologically satisfying books that I've read in a very long time.  It contains levels of deceit, manipulation, familial and relational history, medical information, and interesting selfishness that were just plain satisfying to unravel as the pages turned (rather quickly, I might add). 

Lloyd Copeland is an esteemed medical professional who has a bright future ahead of him....if he can manage to toe the line to keep his job when his superiors seem determined to derail his research.  This isn't just his research, this is his life.  You see, Copeland is conducting research on a possible cure for Alzheimers.  His father was ravaged by the disease, as was his father before him.  So were their wives.  For Copeland, it is only a matter of time before the disease ravishes him too.

Romantic relationships?  Who in their right mind would start one knowing it would end in Alzheimers?
But then along comes Erin, the woman whom he knew as a girl and who might challenge everything he thought he knew about being in love...

Pets?  Only if you count the mice he injects with the "cure" he has discovered....

Close friendships?  Who has the time to get close to anyone when one is trying to save his own life?

This is the story of a man who is set to begin human trials of a revolutionary new cure for Alzheimer's, a cure which will never reach humanity if Copeland doesn't figure out what happened with the mouse who apparently died from the cure, who is blocking his research and how, and who is after his job?  Are they all the same person?  What are their motives?  And just what is he supposed to do with the beguiling woman who won't leave his thoughts?

Gosh, I loved this book. 

I loved it because it was set in the modern world (I've read a lot of mythical stuff lately, as well as a decent amount of dystopian futures) and the characters feel like real people I might meet in a real coffee shop or hospital.  They are human, fragile, running from their own personal demons, fallible, and determined to reach specific goals. They behave in ways that make sense according to their unique personalities, rather than in ways that simply serve the author's purposes.  They refuse to be defined easily.

I loved it because it has roots in psychology, which was my major in college and is one of my continuing passions.  Yet it's psychological roots were balanced with medical roots as well (not one or the other, as so often happens in fiction that deals with a condition of some sort).  These medical roots were clearly laid out by an author who has a real-world grasp of medicine and so made inherent sense and was true to science.  This is important!  I've read stories with medical aspects where it is clear the author is a novice trying to make sense of the the medical terms they're researching for their story.  Not so here.  Palmieri is an actual doctor and the medical writing here is spot-on.  

I loved it because we so often hear on the news "This doctor from this place is starting  human trials for medicine designed to address this condition...." and here we have a story of what went behind a trial.  Granted, the trial is fictional, but it is good to remember that behind every drug that ever went to human trials, there were humans trying to figure out a disease.  Humans with motivations and mental struggles all their own. 

I loved it because it has a super complex and intriguing plot that is rather unpredictable, engaging, and quite a whirlwind.  I needed to know what happened next....lost a bit of sleep while reading this book.  : )

I loved it because psychology and medicine are all wrapped together with and ethical debate that unfolds within these pages.  What are the ethics of conducting trials of an experimental drug on humans?  What are the ethics of leaving thousands of families to suffer the effects of Alzheimer's?  What would your ethics demand if you were close to a cure that could help millions, including yourself (possibly....but you'll have to read the book to see why I said that), but everything was inexplicably standing in your way?

The Bugly (bad/ugly)
Two significant issues caused this book to lose a star: 
1) Characters sound too much like one another.  Regular readers of my blog know this is one of my pet peeves.  Yes yes yes, I get that many of these characters are highly educated individuals who would have traveled in high academic circles with the same kinds of speech patterns.  Truly, I get that.  It just bugs me when characters sound too similar to one another, particularly when conversational scenes don't contain many of the "he said, she said, then he said" kind of identifiers that show you clearly who is speaking.  Many scenes here confused the bugger out of me as I tried to figure out who was saying what.  They needed more identifiers to show who was talking. 

2)  Too.  Much.  Detail.  Okay, I get that a certain amount of detail is necessary for medical explanations and processes to make sense.  The problem is that I get so stuck in the minutia of some of the scenes that it felt like my brain was stuck in a slog of information.  Maybe I was just looking for too much story around the details, but every medical thing was explained in far too much detail.  Don't worry, I have the same complaint about Lord of the Rings and some of the battle scenes.  Detail is good.  Too much detail is difficult.  

1 comment:

  1. I'm happy to report that The Art of Forgetting is one of 4 finalists in the North Texas Book Festival Book Awards in the Adult Fiction category. Winner will be announced on April 4th.