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Posted: April 11, 2021

I am fortunate to have discovered this story

Book Review

By Derryll White

Engel, Howard (2005).  Memory Book.

The ‘Memory Book’ has an interesting back-story. This is Howard Engel’s eleventh Benny Cooperman mystery and he wrote it after a stroke, which resulted in visual alexia.  This meant that Engel could write, but could not read what he had written. Imagine the agony and terror for a writer. The ‘Memory Book’, the first volume published after Howard Engel’s stroke, presents Benny Cooperman with alexia agraphia.

The novel is a mystery, but the real story examines the ways in which a writer manages the threats to his craft. Benny Cooperman takes the reader through the marvellous practices of brain trauma rehabilitation.  And he does it so well.  The play of therapists, occupational and speech, and the whole brain injury clinic stands out as yet another example of how lucky we are to be Canadians with the health care system we possess.

‘Memory Book’ is a strange little novel. It jumps from the mystery genre to autobiography and then to the realm of investigative journalism. Through it all Benny Cooperman demonstrates what each of us can do – if we have to and want to.  I consider myself fortunate to have discovered and read this story.

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Excerpts from the novel:

HOSPITAL – Doctors were the celebrities of the corridor.  You could hear them coming.  You could hear their voices as they made their way from room to room.  The musical chatter of the nursing station was muted when the spoor of physicians was in the air.  When they were on the floor, theirs was the only buzz.  Even the elevators’ pinging seemed to stop.  The doctors moved from bed to bed in a tight military formation.  Every patient was given a dole of cheer before the phalanx moved on and the normal sound of the day returned.

HEALTH CARE – “Wasn’t he covered by insurance?”

“Nowadays there is coverage and coverage.  There are always expenses with illness, and the health-care blanket that is supposed to cover one is getting smaller year by year.”

– Derryll White once wrote books but now chooses to read and write about them.  When not reading he writes history for the web at www.basininstitute.org.


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