In 1988, at the age of 41, Skloot caught a virus that severely damaged his brain. He lost most cognitive abilities and his mobility was also impaired. Skloot's last book, In the Shadow of Memory, left off with his coming to terms with his new condition; here he works on reconstructing his memory and mental abilities and reconnecting with the world. Skloot's Alzheimer's afflicted mother is a major part of his journey; only now does he sense a connection to the placid woman who was once the frustrated, volatile, abusive parent he'd always hoped to escape. Their link is music: although she can't recall who he is, she recalls the show tunes she always loved. ""We can approximate the give and take of conversation through song,"" Skloot writes. ""We have the rhythm of conversation, if not the content. . . .We are holding on to the melody of contact."" Each of Skloot's varied experiences is the subject of another essay, and some are stronger than others. But the book is more than a collection of the personal memories he so doggedly seeks; it also functions as a reflection about cognition, literature and writing, music, growing up and simple living. The author's immense effort in putting back together his mental and physical life is at turns funny, chilling and inspiring. He goes beyond merely making sense of his condition by showing how reaching outward can heal one's inner damage.