The Dark Side of the room - by Tyler Jones
Updated: Jan 7
TDSOTR is the second book I have read from Tyler, the first, Criterium, you can find a review of on my website. His latest offering is an attempt (a very good attempt, I might add) of documenting the effects and feelings of Dementia/Alzheimer’s. Given that my mother is presently dying of Alzheimer’s, I know the effects pretty well, and Tyler’s done a fantastic job of painting a picture in words of how that condition affects the sufferer.
Jones illustrates the loss of memory by creating a visual image which is stunning in its simplicity – that of a room called a Memory Room, where the collected thoughts of a person are made manifest – a vase, once looked at, might trigger a memory of a sunny day in the garden, cutting flowers to decorate a table, moments before meeting a person that would later become your husband (for example). So physical objects in an imaginary room, which is slowly being devoured by a shadow, creeping across the room. Objects in the shadow are hidden, you might remember what they are, that there was once a vase on the fireplace, but the details of that vase, what it represented, are then lost to you. You KNOW the vase existed, but are appalled at your own inability to remember anything about the vase, until the vase itself, as a memory, is gone.
The genius of the creation of the memory room as a physical indication of memory loss is genius, straight up. Tyler then goes a step further by having the physical manifestation of the darkness manifest in the real world, a haunting figure that begins to devour the real-world surroundings of the woman (Betsy) that is trapped in her own loss of memory.
So. That’s the setup. It’s a fantastic idea, and Tyler introduces it slowly, first building up his characters, and his cast are fantastic. Now, it’s easy to see that I am probably projecting a little here, my mother’s condition, and having lived with her constant memory lapses over the years, I guess I could probably be accused of familiarizing Betsy to my own experiences, of loving her character. And that’s fair. But reading is always specific to the individual reader, and I loved Betsy. Her opinions, self-reflection, her idiosyncrasies, her inner monologue. I’ve read some comments that the secondary characters in the apartment block were not as well-rounded as in Tyler’s other book.
I thought they were fantastic. I even made a note of how good I thought Tyler had painted them. I loved the gay couple. I even loved the stoner and Betsy’s thawing to him. It’s sterling character work and made this just flow by.
The story takes a sharp turn in atmosphere when the “monster” is finally confronted, and there is a certain loss of poetry from that point on, but it is replaced by Tyler’s clean rendering of violence, brutal and demanding, and the ending is satisfying, we leave on a sour note, which is true to the book.
I’m giving this 4.5 ⭐’s rounded up to 5 on Goodreads, because of the exceptional character work on Betsy, and because this felt like coming home. Tyler, it was a pleasure.
You can buy "The Dark Side of the room" by clicking on the Amazon store appropriate to you.
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