Published by William Morrow on June 19, 2018
Source: the publisher
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In this beautifully crafted novel from the author of the critically-acclaimed Two Sisters, comes the story of a woman who retreats into a fantasy world on New York City’s Upper West Side as she slowly loses her once whip-smart husband to dementia—perfect for fans of Still Alice.
When life falls apart, a little fantasy goes a long way…
It started as a dream vacation in Spain, with Fay and Paul Agarra enjoying all the delights of a European holiday. A respected New York City judge, Paul has always been the man Fay can rely on, no matter what. When he inexplicably disappears from a Barcelona street corner, Fay knows something is terribly wrong. Once reunited, Paul shrugs off the episode as a simple misunderstanding—but Fay suspects her almost perfect life has taken a dark and sudden turn.
Soon there are more signs that Paul is beginning to change. Bouts of forgetfulness lead to mistakes in the courtroom. Simple tasks cause unexplainable outbursts of anger. Fay’s worst suspicions are realized when she learns her husband—her rock, her love, her everything—is succumbing to the ravages of dementia.
As her husband transforms before her very eyes, Fay copes with her fears by retreating into a fantasy life filled with promise instead of pain. In Fay’s invented world, she imagines herself living a glamorous life free from heartache, with a handsome neighbor she barely knows rescuing her from a future she can’t accept.
Poignant and beautifully crafted, Left is an unforgettable tale about life’s aching uncertainties—and a woman who discovers that somewhere between hope and reality, an unexpected future will find its way forward.
I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
Left by Mary Hogan is the story of how life changes for Paul and Fay Agarra after Fay begins to notice mental status changes with Paul while the couple vacations in Spain and after their return home. At first, it seems like small incidents of forgetfulness or grouchiness here and there, but soon Paul has a true diagnosis of dementia and needs round-the-clock care. Fay’s idyllic life of creating art while her husband works as a judge changes into full-time caregiver responsibilities and their future dreams are gone.
First and before anything, I am experiencing something quite similar with my Dad. He has advanced progressive supranuclear palsy, a rare neurodegenerative disease, and interestingly he has experienced basically every issue that Paul has, although the severity is a little different just due to the difference in my Dad’s PSP vs. dementia. So I’m very close to the underlying subject matter of this book. I’m just putting that out there.
Because of this, I felt so deeply for Paul. His part of the story rang pretty true to me, from what I know of this process. I had no idea that I would be able to connect with Paul on such a level. I could relate to those personality changes and the times when Paul didn’t want to discuss the changes he was experiencing, and I could completely visualize the blank stares that he gave off as his dementia progressed. The same goes with Paul’s wife, Fay, but only to a degree. Fay is initially upset with Paul for his forgetfulness and for his bad mood. She feels like their love has changed. Heck, she feels like their entire marriage has changed and it is all Paul’s fault.
And she sounded really angry about it on the pages.
Certainly their marriage has changed after Paul’s diagnosis, and the changes are due to his cognitive decline. To this end, their future must be re-imagined, and plans have to be updated accordingly. This, this, is also something that I could understand wholeheartedly because I am so, so close to this. Not in marriage, but because I went through this with my Dad, and I watched my parents re-work their lives and toss out their prior-planned future. I could completely appreciate these parts of the story. The heartache, the pain, the longing for the future.
Still, Fay’s words and behaviors were really hard for me to stomach at times. She sounded so selfish on the pages, and I just didn’t see what I felt to be true remorse for her words or actions. She has a right to feel how she feels and to be fair, this story is HER point of view-not Paul’s. But listen: Paul could not help his cognitive decline. And to be completely transparent, this was an issue we dealt with in our family too. Hurt, disbelief, and shock over our diagnosis caused some really odd and cringe-y words and behaviors on our end. Fay’s awful behavior is probably more true-to-life than people realize, and I’d also say that if the story were extended a little further, it would go on to show remorse and tears over her actions, and some big feelings of guilt.
I’ll admit that I did not connect with the fantasy life that Fay created for herself. That part of the story is actually woven throughout the narrative and was off-putting. It was also confusing until I figured out that she was just daydreaming and not actively seeking out another relationship. Perhaps I’m too close to the story, but I don’t like the daydreaming parts because Fay does give herself so wholly to taking care of her husband, and she does a great job. In fact, if you remove that entire part of the story, I think you could better focus on the gradual progression of Paul’s state and Fay’s gradual acceptance of it and have more of an opportunity to dig deeper into Paul and Fay as characters, their marriage, Paul’s decline, and Fay’s caregiver role and how it changed her.