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Excerpt from The Half-Life of Everything by Deborah Carol Gang, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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The Half-Life of Everything

A Novel

by Deborah Carol Gang

The Half-Life of Everything by Deborah Carol Gang X
The Half-Life of Everything by Deborah Carol Gang
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    Sep 2018, 320 pages


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Part I

Kate had read or heard somewhere that normal forgetfulness is misplacing your keys, while Alzheimer's is not knowing what keys are used for. Surely, she thought, there was a middle ground between the two - like when you locate your keys but, for the briefest part of a second, you think, Are these really mine? They look familiar … and yet they don't.

Like anyone who was fifty-one, Kate worried about her memory, though her true specialty was dreading disease. In temperament, she wasn't particularly neurotic, but breast cancer had a hold on her. The disease was so common she had begun to think of it as a normal stage of life, like acne or menopause. And for as long as she could remember, she had paid attention to the risk factors. She had barely adjusted to the trauma of getting her period too young when she learned it was associated with breast cancer. Jewish grandparents from Eastern Europe - also very bad. Delayed childbearing - sensible but also very bad.

"Moist ear wax," she told her disbelieving husband. "I don't know if it's on the current list, but it was mentioned once when I was a teenager."

"And you remembered it," David said.

"Hey, as we used to say: ‘It's not paranoia if they really are after you.'"

He didn't dismiss her fears. He too assumed himself to be one swollen gland away from death, though he could largely avoid the topic of his own diagnosis. But the thought of losing Kate brought on a feeling of helpless dread. They had been married for longer than their friends, but when people teased them for being high school sweethearts, David would remind them that he and Kate actually met in their mid-twenties.

In their first half-hour together, they learned that they had graduated the same year from the same urban high school, but professed to have no memory of each other. Every subsequent attempt to find an association from then drew a blank. She thought she remembered him having a small part in "Bye Bye Birdie," but no, he wasn't in it. He described a scandalously short prom dress, but she said, "Not me. I wore a borrowed dress in an odd shade of yellow that had looked good on my cousin."

When they told their story to new acquaintances who had attended smaller high schools, they would embellish the routine. "I remember when you left the lox and bagels in your locker just before we had two snow days," she would insist.

"Never happened," he'd say, "but I remember the Farrah Fawcett haircut you wore for exactly one day."

In their early years, he sometimes said that he had been in love with her for three years, yet she never noticed him. She would dismiss the idea. Still, sometimes it surprised him that she didn't have an old image of him filed away in her mind. She had a great memory, cluttered though it was by lists of birthdays, books to buy when available in paperback, and movies missed and now to be rented.

Computers didn't relieve her of many of those tasks, but Kate liked how easy it was now to send articles, photos, and links. "We are all linked now," she'd say, "for better or worse." For shortterm needs, though, she was loyal to Post-it notes in a range of sizes, shapes, colors, and degrees of stickiness.

Occasionally, he'd try an actual event on her, as he did late on the evening of their twenty-fourth wedding anniversary. They were celebrating quietly at home, knowing that next year Kate's parents would plan something loving but excessive. "You must have seen me at the senior talent show," he said. "You know, my Bob Dylan act. I may have been invisible before then and after then, but surely I wasn't that day."

"Oh, I was probably in the grove selling pot to sophomores," Kate said. A well-behaved student despite the anarchy of the times, she had created an alternate persona for his amusement. He laughed and pulled her to him.

Excerpted from The Half-Life of Everything by Deborah Carol Gang . Copyright © 2018 by Deborah Carol Gang . Excerpted by permission of Bancroft Press. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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