You Lost Me There: A Novel Audio CD – Audiobook, CD, Unabridged
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"Baldwin's prose is wise and nimble, clever without being self-conscious, true to the myriad voices of his characters." ---Washington Post
About the Author
Rosecrans Baldwin is a founding editor of the popular Web site The Morning News, host of the annual "Tournament of Books," and his work has appeared in New York magazine and the Nation.
Johnny Heller has earned multiple Earphones Awards from AudioFile magazine, including one for Closing Time by Joe Queenan, and has earned two Audie Awards and many more nominations. Named one of the Top Fifty Narrators of the Twentieth Century by AudioFile, he has recorded over five hundred titles.
Jo Anna Perrin is an accomplished actor who has appeared in film and television, as well as on stage in New York, Los Angeles, and regionally.
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Victor's links to his dead wife include a series of index cards that she left behind, detailing the various vectors of their thirty-odd year marriage, and her octogenarian Aunt Betsy, the bellicose island doyenne. He pencils in a regular Friday supper with Aunt Betsy following his Friday afternoon failures with Regina. He compartmentalizes his relationships and quarantines his heart, wallowing in melancholy over his loss. The troubled arc of his marriage left a wake of unsettled issues that Victor is trying to stitch together from their memories. Sara's index cards tell a story that threatens to unhinge him completely.
The novel contains some elaborate observations on life, particularly memories.
"Some theories said the most accurate memory was one that's never recalled. The more the mind retells a story, the more that story hardens into a basic shape, where by remembering one detail we push ten others below the surface and construct the memory touch by touch. A sculpture between the neurons that looks like its model, just not completely."
As a philosophical writer of tart reflections, Baldwin has a pungent flair. However, the story was often fuzzy and unfocused, as it lurched from character to character, from scene to scene. Likewise, this eccentric cast of oddballs was self-consciously overplayed. They were a little too quirky and frenzied, as if the author was trying to fill a weak story with ambient noise. The narrative felt boggy and bleary, and I was routinely impatient to return to the examination of Victor and Sara's marriage. The book needs some crisp editing; the story tends to become either repetitive and muddy or windy and discursive. Also, a dark and defining event in Victor's past was too affectedly reminiscent of a scene out of Pump up the Volume.
The narrative thrust declines when Aunt Betsy's son, Joel, a background character during most of the story, is corralled to front and center during the final stretch of the novel. Once the climax is reached--an over-the-top but ultimately enervating experience--the story continues tonelessly with Joel and his transgressions. He was the least engaging character of all, presented wearily as the stock alcoholic. The story's indulgence into Joel became tedious to read, and I often lost interest.
Baldwin's freshman effort does show promising talent, but it suffers from the flaws of many debut novels. The jacket cover describes this book as "dazzling." Honestly, dazzling it is not. It lacks focus and rhythm and suffers from structural jam and story caulking. But I admire Baldwin's offbeat wisdom and and I suspect he will refine his craft with time.
How often do you run into Mr. Willis and his oeuvre in literary fiction? He may not appear frequently (maybe not at all) yet he fits in perfectly with this substantial and insightful novel about memor by Rosecrans Baldwin. You Lost Me There is a complicated story, with twists and surprises and feinted paths, as well as scientific details about disease and the research to fight it. Beyond the serious details, it is a fun novel as well, thus Bruce Willis references prevail throughout the story and with surprising relevancy.
"Years in the past, someone thought my wife was a knockout, one night long ago in a restaurant. A night I didn't remember."
So realizes Victor Aaron, a brilliant scientist who is now realizing just how ignorant he's been. In the time since his wife's fatal car accident, he's been lost and unable to find his way, too young to retire but too old to feel any real enthusiasm for his life or work. As a scientist researching Alzheimer's disease, he's enthralled with the concept of memory and works to find a cure. His work gives him opportunities to study case histories on how the brain is wired, and the novel doesn't hesitate to dip into scientific explanations. That the memory specialist is unable to recall much about his wife, anything accurate, is a puzzle he needs to solve.
He stumbles upon note cards that his wife had written, as suggested by a marriage counselor they had hired, in an effort to stall what appeared to be an inevitable divorce. Their marriage had become a quiet battle of pathos versus logos, with a bit of ethos thrown in by crazy Aunt Betsy. Aunt Betsy appears to be the voice of balance in the novel, even though she is described by Victor as "an amateur anthropologist... [who] studied misbehavior. She tracked her stories doggedly and did not hesitate to use them."
Victor is most astonished by how his wife Sara describes him in her note cards: "He was so focused on research and making a name for himself that we were landlocked by his lab schedule, him at sea and me in the window." She had a successful career, as did he, they were wealthy, and he didn't see a problem in their marriage that couldn't be fixed without him simply apologizing. That his apologies were vague and noncommittal didn't occur to him, and as he continues to read her notes he realizes how differently he and she had interpreted significant events in their lives.
However, the story doesn't limit itself to their marital discord, which would probably be a really sappy novel that would ultimately be a bore, and then a television movie. Instead, Baldwin goes deeper into what memories Victor has, from a childhood friend's suicide to his closest friend's obvious creepiness. It's as if seeing his wife Sara's version of himself has freed him to reexamine himself from other angles. Yet you can't be lulled into thinking this is a fable that ends with everyone awakened to their flaws and eager to change. Can you change who you are if you can't remember what you've been?
"I didn't want to remember that evening ever again. Wipe the synapses clean with some scotch and a hard sleep."
Baldwin creates a thriller-like pace, and he weaves in details such as the "We Will Never Forget" bumper stickers of 9/11, and how in placing them on cars, people are essentially admitting that they need to be reminded. Victor admits to not remembering the name of a movie that was the centerpiece of their first date, and Baldwin uses this to contrast how there are often so many little things we remember while the more important details slip away. Even more fascinating, though, is how Baldwin portrays different characters in the phases of wanting to remember or trying to forget.
Because this doesn't attempt to sew up all the details neatly, it would probably be a great film. I'd bet the movie rights are already sold. The question is, is there a role for Bruce Willis?
Victor spent his life so consumed with his work that the rest of his life went on without him; except he doesn't realize it. He thinks he had a good life and a happy (if sometimes troubled) marriage. After his wife dies in an accident, he finds notes she had left behind--not TO him, but ABOUT him--an exercise assigned by a marriage counseler they'd seen in the past.
Through these cards, Victor realizes that his life, his wife, his marriage...none of it was what he thought it was. Here, this expert in the brain and its memories comes to the jarring realization that his recollections about his wife, Sara, their marriage and particular events in their lives may not be accurate. This revelation, as well as some of the profoundly hurtful things Sara says about him on the cards, shake him to the core and magnify the grief of her loss.
I usually have a hard time getting through a book where some characters are so unlikeable but, for whatever reason, that didn't bother me much in this book (though Aunt Betsy did get on my nerves). Unlike a lot of books I've read this year, the cast of characters here is blessedly short--only about half a dozen. They are all colorful and flawed characters--some more than others.
The writing is quite good, and keeps the story flowing very well. I never had a problem staying interested in this story--I was always eager to pick it up from the nightstand. Be prepared for this story to make you think about whether your relationships are really as they seem.
The narrative follows the life of Victor, a widowed Alzheimer's researcher as he stumbles through his halted career, failed relationships and inability to mourn for his wife. Victor discovers a series of notecards that document his wife's memories from their marriage, leaving Victor completely unhinged at the realization that his own memories are unreliable. The people that touch his life along the way--including his eccentric Aunt Betsey, hippie goddaughter, and artsy lover Regina--are incredibly human and relatable in their all their flaws and idiosyncrasies.
You won't want to put this one down.
True, like all first novels there are some rough edges; a few of the supporting characters don't have enough dimensionality. But they're still fun and interesting. And Baldwin avoids the typical mark of the beginning novelist, namely a well-polished first chapter or two (probably what they used to sell the book) followed by 200 pages of thrashing about, looking for some way to fulfill the early chapters' promise. Baldwin dances around that trap like a prima ballerina, keeping the wit, pace, and reader's attention from start to finish.