Aspen Times Weekly book review: ‘Stars Go Blue’
‘Stars Go Blue’
183 pages; hardcover, $25
Counterpoint Press, 2014
Ben Cross has Alzheimer’s disease, reminder notes in his pockets and a grim to-do list of tasks to complete before his mind leaves him. His wife, Renny, is increasingly bitter about their life on the family ranch in northern Colorado as she endures the slow and heartbreaking goodbye of losing a loved one to dementia.
We hear from both of them in alternating close third-person narratives in Laura Pritchett’s sad and sensitive new novel “Stars Go Blue.” The story plays out in the present tense, immersing the reader in the moment-to-moment fears and uncertainties of losing your mind or losing your partner. This can be a harrowing reading experience – and may be too real for some – but it offers a rare perspective, with unflinching and painstaking emotional detail. Attempting to show the world through the eyes of someone with Alzheimer’s, as Pritchett has, is a bold act of empathy and imagination.
Ben and Renny are haunted by the murder of their daughter by her drug-addicted husband. As his release from prison nears, Ben seeks revenge. His vengeance and ending his own life are among the items he’s committed to check off his list before his mind goes.
Readers of Pritchett’s debut, “Hell’s Bottom, Colorado,” will recognize Renny and Ben. The linked stories in that collection focused on their life before the dual tragedies of Rachel’s death and Ben’s dementia.
This short book and its spare prose, its vivid descriptions of the hard-bitten Colorado landscape in sun and snow, and its emotional depths help cement Pritchett as an heir to the late Kent Haruf.
“Stars Go Blue” is nominated for the Colorado Book Award for Literary Fiction. The awards ceremony is June 21 at the Doerr-Hosier Center at Aspen Meadows. Tickets are available by calling 303-984-7951.