THE SPEED OF LIFE by Anne Pete is a compelling debut novel and a must read for anyone who loves the Arizona desert, strong but vulnerable female characters, and moving personal journeys.
The biggest fear most of us have is losing control over our lives and our body. If we are lucky, we have time to deal with this fear slowly as we age. But when disease strikes, especially a neurodegenerative disease, it can take away our opportunity to adjust slowly and/or gracefully. This is where we meet Hope Moret Sorensen, not yet 40 with a loving husband and life in the beautiful Arizona desert, but now suddenly thrust into the raw and devastating reality of Huntington’s disease.
“She had forty-two CAG repeats, a guarantee for Huntington’s. Thirty-five repeats and she’d have been spared the Huntington’s family curse. A difference of seven. It was almost laughable that her disease, “HD” — her life expectancy — was predicated on something as simple as repetition. It all boiled down to letters and numbers.”
As Hope endures and comes to terms with her disease, we get to know her loves, fears, regrets, and resolve. She is as rugged and real as the Night Blooming Cereus that she loves and just as vulnerable. As her world narrows and her life slows, her focus becomes survival (or not) and the people and relationships that matter most to her.
“Charlie gathered Hope’s hands in his and inspected the blood trails crisscrossing her skin. He squeezed her fingers gently then kissed her hands. She looked out at the glowing mountains, now tinted a Sedona red, then reached for the bottle and took another deep sip.”
It is no coincidence that the Arizona desert plays a prominent role in THE SPEED OF LIFE. It’s harsh beauty leaves little room for weakness in those who truly live in and depend on it. But it is that constant underlying awareness of vulnerability that strengthens and hones its inhabitants survival mode. THE SPEED OF LIFE wouldn’t be the same story nor Hope the same character in any other environment.
“She pointed at a blooming agave above a rocky cliff, its grey-green speared petals pointing toward the sky. She always thought of it as a ghost plant, the way the leafy rosette unfolded, its center bunched up like asparagus, the outer leaves falling away as it grew, but leaving ghostly shadows of themselves on the backs of the leaves above them.”
I’m looking forward to more books by Anne Pete!