Color me surprised! What a find…an amnesia story that has so many twists
you totally forget you've read these symptoms before. Unhappily, the book
is one of inconsistencies. It is sprinkled with imagery that is poignantly
vivid and accompanied by crisp dialogue, but this is often smothered by
the fact that most of the characters are not well defined.
On a West Virginia mountain, a semi careening out of control rounds a curve
and runs a vehicle off the road. The car tumbles down the mountainside and
finds temporary lodging between a tree stump and a rock. Owen Blackhart is
first on the scene and rescues the lone female driver from the car before
it starts its final journey into the ravine far below.
The passenger is airlifted to a nearby hospital and hovers near death.
While waiting for the helicopter, she clings to life while clutching Owen's
hand. Doctors are unable to elicit any response from her until Owen shows
up to visit and she hears the sound of his voice. The machines indicate
reaction and he is persuaded to stay and help.
That's not a problem for Owen since he is at loose ends. In his mid-thirties and recently retired, he has inherited a nearby home from a wealthy well-known philanthropist, and is just moving into the area.
His faithfulness pays off as the patient gradually regains consciousness,
only to confront the new terror of repressed memory, or amnesia. Bit by bit,
she starts reconstructing her life with the help of the media and Owen. The
first plot surprise came for me when she was identified as Mary Ann by
someone who had been attending Alcoholics Anonymous with her.
While the ultimate resolution of the story is very predictable, the
twists and turns taken before arriving there are innovative and clever. The
downside of this book is that Mary Ann is so vividly portrayed that
everyone else feels like a cardboard cut out next to her. Rarely is the
point of view as one sided as it is here.
Owen's mysterious background is rather methodically explored and set forth
with very little impact on his relationship with Mary Ann. The sexual
tension is well sustained, but the underlying romance on Owen's part lacks
the necessary spark.
The book is interspersed with truly great strokes of brilliant writing,
which sadly makes the mediocre parts even flatter. Balancing the two extremes, I'll call it an acceptable read.