A 91-year-old man suffering from dementia gets offered a new drug that gives him a stark choice, in Walter Mosley's new novel. Are we finally going to get an Alzheimer's disease novel to compete with Vernor Vinge's Rainbow's End? Spoilers...
Mosley's new novel, The Last Days of Ptolemy Grey, sounds fantastic, judging from the early reviews, and I'm dying to hunt down a copy now. According to NPR, it fuses "family, fable, science fiction and sociology." Goodreads calls it "a short, powerful novel that draws both on his wisdom as a literary novelist and his storytelling skills as a mystery writer, crafting a book about an issue that affects-or will affect-us all, and that has the feel of a small classic that will sit well alongside the work of Ralph Ellison and James Baldwin."
The science fiction part comes in because Ptolemy Grey gets offered a drug that can cure his dementia and allow him to think clearly for the first time in years — but there's a high price. He won't live to be 92 years old if he takes the drug — instead, he'll live a short time longer, with a feverish clarity. He agrees to take the drug, and as a result he spends two days in a dream-like coma full of resurfacing memories, then awakens with his mind sharp and clear. And once he can see clearly, he comes to understand the shocking state of his family and the circumstances surrounding the death of his grand-nephew Reggie, who used to take care of Ptolemy.
Talking to the Arizona Republic, the Blue Light author explains more about the genesis of this new novel:
Q: Where did the inspiration for the book come from?
A: My mother died two years ago, and the last four years were really bad. She had dementia. It was kind of my experience. My father was already dead, I'm the only child and my mother had no other close relatives. It's not like I took care of her from day to day, but I was the one who made all the big decisions in her life at the end.
Q: Did that emotional connection make this book difficult to write?
A: Actually, there was a certain kind of elan to it. It made a connection to my mother and to her experience with me. I kind of loved it, actually.