August 04, 2010 at 04:00 AM EDT

You Lost Me There

Current Status
In Season
Fiction, Mystery and Thriller
We gave it an A-

Brilliance and befuddlement are twined in the DnA of Dr. Victor Aaron, the living narrator of Rosecrans Baldwin?s beautiful, brainy, offbeat first novel, You Lost Me There. Victor, a widower in his late 50s, is the sort of genius (he?s a leading Alzheimer?s researcher) who?s a dolt when it comes to understanding emotions, either in himself or others. his subspecialty is misunderstanding women, a masculine weakness the author probes with delicacy as Victor mourns the loss of his wife, Sara.

By way of diary-like notes she left behind, Sara is, you see, equally the narrator of this scientifically erudite fiction. And a good storyteller she is, too, since in life she was a successful playwright and screenwriter. the story teeters as it concludes, but Baldwin keeps his balance with sharply drawn secondary characters: I especially like the lively Yankee-eccentric old aunt, as well as the young colleague with whom Victor has an ambivalent, erotically based liaison. (She delivers a show-stopping monologue about men and women and sex today: ”Men think women are puppets, and women go out and get surgery to look like blow-up dolls.”) Baldwin shows steadying compassion and literary flair in the dissection of miseries,identifying with equal compassion the dissatisfactions of a dead wife and the grief of a bewildered widower. Behold the irony of a specialist in memory loss whose memory of his own marriage is unreliable. A?

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