Alzheimer’s is a heartbreaking disease and I found myself crying at points during The Unseen World. It reminded me of how my grandmother struggled to care for her husband in his late years with Alzheimer’s. My husband also has a grandparent with the illness. It’s something that feels particularly close and is dreadfully frightening.
Ada Sibelius is a 12 year old girl who lives with her father, David. Their lives are unconventional. Ada does not attend a school. Instead she is homeschooled, which in this case means every day she follows her father to the software lab he heads up at the Boston Institute of Technology. There Ada works the rest of the team on their projects. The lab’s main project is a self learning language software based on ELIZA. For me their software, ELIXIR was another key character in the book and I enjoyed the development of ELIXIR alongside Ada’s own as they “grew up” together.
When David is no longer able to hide the signs that he is developing Alzheimer’s Disease Ada’s world begins to fall apart. As hard as she tries to stop it from happening, this is something Ada cannot manage alone. And David’s secrets do not stop at trying to hide the onset of his illness. The mystery at the heart of this novel is an unusual one.
Lisa Flanagan has a beautiful, clear voice. This is the first time I’ve come across her and her performance is very enjoyable. She creates Liz Moore’s characters extremely well and makes the overall experience a pleasure.
Shortly after finishing the novel articles began to appear about a new drug that has been able to reverse the physical damage Alzheimers causes to the brain. After the desolation of The Unseen World this was a welcome hope. If scientists can show there are cognitive benefits this drug could change outcomes for people diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease.
The Unseen World and Ada both inherit their names from the work of Ada Lovelace, the writer of the world’s first software program, before the machines that could utilise such programs were created. This novel is a touching tribute to humanity’s frailty and strength.
I’d previously read Heft by Liz Moore so I was looking forward to this new novel. I wonder how frustrating it is for authors to have their new works compared to their previous ones. Somehow I felt as though The Unseen World didn’t quite measure up to Heft. There are minor grammatical flaws that occasionally distracted me from the text and although I understand why Liz Moore may have made the sentence structure choices she did, they irked me.
I’m a picky reader with a preference for literary fiction and this was well into general fiction territory. For a piece of general fiction I thought it very enjoyable and I’m positive it will be very popular among young readers in particular. Overall it’s a good book with a great performance by narrator Lisa Flanagan. Well worth whiling away fourteen hours.
The Unseen World • by Liz Moore • read by Lisa Flanagan • 14.4 hours • published by Blackstone Audio • July 26, 2016 • ISBN 9781504724371