Summary and book reviews of The Half-Life of Everything by Deborah Carol Gang

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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  • Published:
    Sep 2018, 320 pages

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Book Summary

David and Kate are happily married fifty-somethings when she's diagnosed with early Alzheimer's. He has never been unfaithful, but after several years of losing Kate more each day, he wonders: What is a married widower supposed to do? Two strong-willed women intervene and everyone finds themselves making unexpected choices.

Can any marriage withstand the transformation of one partner into someone who's lost? When does a marriage end? The Half-Life of Everything, realistic in every detail except for one speculative twist, places David in the unwelcome situation of loving two women. Must he be the good and faithful husband he's always been, or is he deserving of a second chance? The novel is a modern study of marriage and love––and of friendship, the overlooked foundation of both romantic and everyday life.

Deborah Carol Gang's beautifully written, humorous, and ultimately uplifting debut novel will remind readers of Anne Tyler's lyrical and slightly off-kilter fiction. Tyler herself, who steadfastly continues an anti-blurb campaign, wrote the author "to tell you directly how much I enjoyed The Half-Life of Everything."

3
Part I
BEFORE

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...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
  1. David's family is faced with one of the most difficult diseases in our world today - Alzheimer's. Have you ever had a family member or loved one suffer through the disease? How did your family react?
  2. Kate's friends and family react differently to her illness. Many of them visit her very infrequently, almost avoiding her. How do you think you would react if you were one of Kate's friends?
  3. After Kate begins to get better, she spends a lot of time focusing on the years she lost. She grieves for them, looking through photo albums and listening to David tell her everything that she missed. She doesn't want to focus on these years, but she can't help it. If you were Kate, how do you think you would react to missing so many years? Would ...
Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!

Here are some of the comments posted about The Half-Life of Everything.
You can see the full discussion here.


A Q&A with Deborah Carol Gang
The scenes between David and his friend, Ian, were a challenge because I was writing dialogue between two men whose private conversations are not witnessed by others who could help things along. I liked the challenge of creating Ian with a minimal of... - davinamw

David and Kate are forced to lie to many people with whom they have been close for the greater good of the drug trial. Do you think you would be able to lie to those you care about if you knew that it was the right thing to do?
It actually didn't really seem like much of a lie to me, just withholding a bit of truth, as Rebeccar said. If not telling anyone about the drug study is a condition for participation, then you do what you have to do. I wouldn't have a problem with ... - kdowney25

David is involved with two women at once
Leah, I disagree that no one made a definitive choice. They all three made the choice to be together in an unconventional relationship. It seemed to me that the women were more comfortable with it than David, however. He offered, on more than one ... - kdowney25

Did the friendship between Kate and Jane surprise you? Do you think you could be friends with someone that your significant other was with?
I wasn't at all surprised that Kate and Jane became friends. David thought they would have liked each other, even before the possibility that Kate might return from her illness. - kdowney25

Did you find yourself rooting for David to choose either Kate or Jane? Were you surprised to see their relationship work right through to the end of the book?
Bothnwoman were certainly open to the arrangement and probably for different reasons. I think Kate may have thought it would eventually end for medical reasons and Jane had certainly had an unpleasant marriage. Both women wanted a more perfect “... - Peggy H

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Reviews

Media Reviews

Midwest Book Review
A deftly crafted novel by an author with a genuine flair for originality and narrative driven storytelling. The Half-Life of Everything is a thoroughly absorbing and thought-provoking read from beginning to end.

Forward Reviews
Through its shifting narrative and quirky, engaging characters, The Half-Life of Everything balances humor, candor, melancholy, and warmth

Booklist
Gang's probing and emotional novel about loss, recovery, and renewal follows a messily imperfect family through some of the most difficult and rewarding years of their lives. Her grounded prose echoes the weight of the family's hardest decisions, with a style reminiscent of Anne Tyler. Full of life and love, Gang's debut novel is heartwarming and genuine.

Author Blurb Mary Ann Grossmann
If your book club is looking for stimulating reading that leads to conversation, here is one to consider.

Author Blurb Andy Mozina, A Finalist for The Flannery O'Connor Prize, and author of Contrary Motion
Has a novel ever burned so brightly with decency, common sense, and love in the face of fate's cruel medical tricks as The Half-Life of Everything? I don't think so. This is a one-of-a-kind book, full of grace, humor, and winning characters. The meanings of marriage, fidelity, and love itself are up for grabs, and Deborah Carol Gang's clear and vivid prose juggles them artfully. A remarkable debut.

Author Blurb Elinor Lipman, bestselling author of numerous novels, including On Turpentine Lane, The View from Penthouse B, and The Inn at Lake Devine
A timely, compelling, beautifully written story of love divided, multiplied, but never defeated. I rooted for every one of Deborah Carol Gang's memorable characters.

Author Blurb Bonnie Jo Campbell, author of American Salvage, A National Book Award finalist, and Winner of the 2019 Mark Twain Award for Distinguished Contributions to Midwestern Literature
Oh the humanity! Deborah Carol Gang's crisp debut novel shows how, with a little luck, decent people making smart, careful choices can nonetheless careen into troubled new landscapes. Enjoy the ride and the charming company as this what-if story banks and swerves and carries you safely home.

Reader Reviews

Nannygoat

Half-Life
Have you ever been in the position of judging someone else’s lifestyle? Saying to yourself I Would Never Do That, No Matter What! This is a novel which may give you pause. Husband, David, is married to wife, Kate, who has Alzheimer’s. They ...   Read More

RebeccaR

Unsure of How I Feel
I wasn't sure what to expect with this book. I was drawn to reading it after the shock of seeing an older person I know develop dementia recently. Parts of Ms. Gang's novel I liked, and other parts I did not. That is how I ended up with an overall ...   Read More

Diane

Unbelievable
I read this book because I have a brother whose wife has Alzheimer's. I thought it might be a book for him to read and find something to which he could relate. I was so wrong. I found this book almost insulting. The situations in this book are ...   Read More

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