Strong love stories drive many of the greatest novels of all time, but the love story in The Man Without a Shadow is remarkably unusual and haunting. From this tale Joyce Carol Oates raises probing questions about the nature of love and the phenomenon of consciousness. Elihu Hoops - a charismatic man from a prominent wealthy family and ardent civil rights activist - experiences an acute inflammation of the brain in 1964 which causes him to lose all short-term memory. He is incapable of remembering anything new for more than seventy seconds. His condition can never be cured because of irreparable damage to the hippocampus area of his brain which is responsible for the formation of new memories. In the proceeding decades he’s regularly taken to a university’s research facility or “Memory Lab” where groups of neuroscientists engage him with tests to better understand the biological connection between the brain and memory. Even though this is for the betterment of society and human knowledge, the question lingers if Elihu is being exploited. One of the scientists Margot Sharpe builds an entire career out of working closely with the amnesiac. The connection she forms with him over a lifetime turns into a strikingly original romance.
Read my full review on Bearing Witness: Joyce Carol Oates Studies: http://repository.usfca.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1019&context=jcostudies