Yesterday Road by Kevin Brennan shows the fiction of the memory is the most important.
Jack in Yesterday Road finds himself on the road a few hours from San Francisco one day with no memory of who he is or where he’s been. He hooks up with a Down syndrome young man named Joe, and the two travel in an innocent cocoon until adopted by Ida who doesn’t know that her waitress uniform conceals a big heart.
Jack’s memory of his past comes to him at night in his dreams as some form of fiction. He remembers snatches of things and knows from the things he says that he was a good man with a strong family. Without the facility to name those things from his past, including his own name, he leads with his instinct and shows those he meets great kindness and offers them a way to live in the present.
The agony of Alzheimer’s is portrayed in Jack’s knowing he won’t remember things if he goes to sleep. One night he stays up purposefully so he won’t forget Joe. As he knew would happen, Joe is gone from his memory the next time he sleeps.
His memories of the past come fleetingly, and he remembers them enough to take him to the place he knows was once home. He hears the voices of his parent, such as the words of his mother:
“Everyone follows his own path, she said. Remember that. Once you start out, you’re the only one who knows the right way to go.”
Those words carry him forth to where he knows not, but he continues on his journey aided by the kindness and love of Ida who abandons her own life for a few days to help Jack find his way.
Yesterday Road takes the reader on a weeklong odyssey with Jack and a cast of characters. The relationship between Jack and Joe is one of the sweetest. Jack knows that Joe can’t take of himself; and Joe knows that Jack can’t remember anything. Between the two of them, they manage to pull off a few miraculous acts. Those of us with most of our faculties intact probably couldn’t pull off half of what these two men do.
Brennan’s novel creates a poignant tale of what it means to be a victim of Alzheimer’s. Two people close to me suffered through this disease, and the worst stage for both of them occurred in the shadow stage of the disease. They knew they had it; they knew they forgot things; they knew enough to cry for what they’d lost even though they couldn’t always remember what it was. Jack is in this stage, and at times, it’s painful to read, but it’s important to read.
I started this book on Monday night and finished it the next day. It’s not a long book, but it’s filled with well-drawn character sketches, particularly of Jack, Joe, and Ida. But Brennan also writes with vivid precision of the minor characters to help move along the plot without clogging its progression.
Brennan’s writing is concise and clear, and correct. These are what I call the three C’s of writing. His depiction of Alzheimer’s is correct. The heartbreak of the disease is clear through the dialogue and actions of Jack. And his language is concise as he moves the plot along without stopping to smell the flowers on the side of the road as these road warriors travel from San Francisco to Salt Lake City to Omaha to Wisconsin.
I recommend giving this book a try if you want to immerse yourself in three very likable and charming characters who come to life in such a way that the fiction of our memory doesn’t matter so much as the effect it has on our living now.
Click here to read my interview with Kevin Brennan on Author Wednesday.