Friday, December 9, 2022

Emma Scott - A Five-Minute Life

Thea Hughes has five minutes to live.
A car accident stole her parents and left her with the second-worst documented case of amnesia in the world. She now has only minutes of experiences, of consciousness, of life…before her memory is wiped clean. The once effervescent artist with a promising future is reduced to scribbling with pens and paper, living an empty, quiet life, three hundred seconds at a time.
Jim Whelan is on autopilot.
A foster kid shuffled around the system since birth, he’s lived his entire life without knowing love…and it’s taken its toll—until he learned to fight back, carry his armor, and keep his head down.
Working as an orderly in the Blue Ridge Sanitarium, deep in Virginia countryside, Jim looked up…and found Thea.
When Thea has the chance to break free of her five-minute prison with a risky, experimental surgery, it could lead them both to an epic love they never thought possible… or one that could require the ultimate sacrifice.

Comment: Back in May I've read a book by this author which I had been curious about and it turned out to be a little less amazing than what I envisioned. I was slightly wary of this one now but, thankfully, it went a much more appealing way for me.

In this book we meet Jim Whelan, a young man who has had a terrible childhood and youth years, especially when he was at the house of some of his foster families. His last one, before he could legally leave on his own, was particularly bad. Jim also has a stutter and he dreams of being a therapist to other kids like he was but he works as an orderly and when that job ended, he applied to a similar one in a sanitarium for patients with brain damage. That is how he meets Thea Hughes, also a young woman, seemingly just like any other, but who also has a terrible amnesia condition, a result of a car crash where her parents died. Thea can only maintain focus and memories for five minutes but as the days go by, Jim can't avoid being interested in wanting to help her and his attempt to do so might be much more important than what anyone would think but is there any hope to have Thea in his life while she is trapped in this condition?

Again, I liked the theme of this story as I had with the other book by the author I had tried. But this time, it felt as if the structure of this story was better developed and I was a lot more invested in what was happening and how the author would go from one point to another in a realistic way. I don't think it's a surprise to say the goal is to help Thea gain better skills at regaining or keeping her memories, although the final solution is more fictional than realistic.

Nevertheless, the amnesia problem Thea has is very real and I can't help but think it's so unfair, as Alzheimer for instance is unfair, and it's not easy nor possible at this time, scientifically and medically, to cure it. I think the author must have done considerable research on this condition and others affecting memory because what was shared feels it was done in a competent way. If one reads on the subject, most of the information does seem to be important and I was curious to see how this would be applied to Thea and how we would see it on the page.

In order to make this a romance novel, however, it's understandable the amount of pages where we see Thea having this issue and dealing with it, as do the other people around her, couldn't extend for that long so the story is divided into three parts, being the first where we see this issue and how it affects Jim seeing Thea this way, and then two other sections where they become friends and lovers and there's a physical and emotional journey for them.

Jim is fascinating character, he's been through a lot of struggles but he also reads as if he's a bit too perfect. I think the author tried to downplay his character a little, making him vulnerable and having had a bad childhood, but there were times I think he was just too good and had a mental strength which isn't certainly easy to cope with, especially when Thea seems to reach a point where a solution just doesn't feel likely to happen to her. Of course this is fiction and Jim can be whatever the author wanted and I did like he was such a good person but sometimes he was too good.

Perhaps the first person narrator was part of why I had this impression. Most of the story is told by Jim, with Thea having some chapters too, and this clearly colors how we see them as well. I liked the first part of the story the best, while Thea is in treatment, while nothing seems possible to be solved but we get small glimpses of them both. At the time, Thea was hard to read but I enjoyed seeing her through Jim's eyes and how compassionate, I admit, he always acted towards her.

Closer to the end of the book, the drama reaches a heavy level and I have to say Thea did act a bit irresponsibly but it's also true one must bear in mind what she was living with and the knowledge she wasn't certain she could be cured. I liked how much she wanted her freedom, her art and all the things that help us be who we are and happy as we want to feel. I was sorry she was going through such a thing but I also think the way the final parts of the story were done was really just to increase the drama.

Not to be worried, though, things do end in a happy mode, and before that of course all the things we wish that could be solved for our protagonists are done or close to it. I feel that, for me, part of why this wasn't better is the repetitiveness of some situations - and I'm not taking about the ones related to Thea's amnesia, those were actually my favorite parts - and the fact that Jim was a bit too perfect and some details as the story was reaching its conclusion happened too easily, comparing to the huge task which was the set up.

Despite this, the story had plenty of heartbreaking and heartwarming scenes and I was rooting for things to be well for the couple in the end. I think the theme was quite original, pretty close to that movie with Drew Barrymore where she also has a type of permanent amnesia, and it was very interesting to learn a few things. This more positive experience does leave me calmer about trying other books by the author.
Grade: 7/10

No comments:

Post a Comment