Scar Tissue

Michael Ignatieff, Author Farrar Straus Giroux $20 (199p) ISBN 978-0-374-25428-5
This searching, poignant account of a woman's descent into Alzheimer's disease and her son's debilitating existential fear and guilt is a cri de coeur that was shortlisted for the Booker Prize. While the subject has been treated before, Ignatieff ( Aysa ) brings to it highly honed powers of observation and a philosophic turn of mind. The title refers to ``the dark starbursts of scar tissue'' that indicate a brain being destroyed. Haunted by the genetic predisposition to Alzheimer's in his mother's family, the narrator describes each harrowing stage of her illness, meanwhile speculating about the loss of selfhood when language and memory are obliterated. There is irony in his insight that ``we have just enough knowledge to know our fate but not enough to do anything to avert it.'' The ramifications of the mother's decline destroy the family: the narrator ascribes his father's fatal heart attack, the demise of his own marriage, a break with his brother and his months of crippling depression as inescapable consequences. At times, one becomes impatient with the narrator's self-destructive behavior, his utter despair and his emotional estrangement from his wife and children. Though the prose is carefully restrained, as the book reaches its climax there is a tinge of melodrama and excess that does, however, accurately convey the narrator's conviction that he cannot escape his mother's fate. (Sept.)
Reviewed on: 08/29/1994
Release date: 09/01/1994
Genre: Fiction
Paperback - 212 pages - 978-0-374-52769-3
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