Hans M Hirschi was recently on our show to talk about his new novel. To listen to Hans’ Episode and find links to his work, go to Episode 133: Hits Close to Home.
This was bound to be a tough read, as any book about facing one’s one mortality is likely to be. Hunter has early-onset Alzheimers, which strikes pitilessly and without warning. The book is from his point of view, via a diary he writes to combat the gradual erasing of his memory. There are also post-death notes from his husband, Ethan, who makes sense of the increasingly paranoid and erratic course of Hunter’s thoughts, and the result is a beautiful, tragic and fascinating insight into the mind of a man facing up to his own death.
Through a beautifully-woven story-line, we get to know Hunter and his family, including his and Ethan’s daughter, Amy. We learn of the difficulties gay couples face when wanting to have children of their own, the way the law is pitted against them in all aspects of their lives, and the terrible dilemmas some face when a loved-one’s life comes to an end. This isn’t just a book about Alzheimers, but about the choices that many straight people take for granted, that are, more often than not, denied to gay couples. It’s about when death can deal a cruel blow, and sometimes a merciful one, and about choosing how to die, whilst still of sound mind and body.
The book is also massively about family. How one family deals with a child’s disappointment on learning there is no Santa Claus, is one of my favourite passages. The author has an incredible talent for conveying pain, sadness, and joy in just a few words. I couldn’t put the book down after the first page. It was as if I knew Hunter and Ethan personally. The way the reader is drawn in to the story, which can be a hard-sell in this world of romance and HEA’s, is masterful.
There were a couple of sentences that jolted a bit, which seemed slightly out of place in Hunter’s reminiscences, but then I realised it was because his memories were becoming mixed with hope and fantasy. It is a disturbing read, sensing Hunter slipping away, being replaced by this paranoid, tetchy and confused individual who is more child than man. Ethan, his husband, admits the difficulties he has in coping, without sugar-coating or over-dramatising the agonising choices he will be faced with.
Finally, this is a love story, between two people who know they will be parted sooner than either of them hoped, and how they deal with that, knowing that their struggle is made all the more difficult because of who they are. I loved Hunter’s humanity, Eithan’s loyalty, and Amy’s stoicism. It is a beautiful, sad yet ultimately life affirming read. Recommended.
When journalist Hunter MacIntyre is diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s, he realizes that his life is about to change, not to mention that he’s been handed a certain death sentence.
Alzheimer’s is a disease affecting the patient’s loved ones as much, if not more, than the patient themselves. In Hunter’s case, that’s his partner Ethan and their five-year-old daughter Amy. How will they react to, and deal with, Hunter’s changing behavior, his memory lapses, and the consequences for their everyday lives?
Disease is a story of Alzheimer’s, seen through the eyes of one affected family.