By Johan Twiss
Aaron, a twelve-year-old boy, contracts a rare form of meningitis that leaves him unable to move or communicate. It appears to the outside world that he is in a coma with no brain function. His parents place him in a retirement home for his care, but their guilt and belief that Aaron is brain-dead leads to fewer visits until they stop altogether.
What no one realized was that he was utterly lucid – well aware of what was going on around him. Aaron lives a lonely, dull existence until he discovers he can go to a place in his mind, his “mind palace,” where he can escape from his boring reality and have great adventures. Then, Aaron gets a roommate, and his life is changed forever.
The roommate, Solomon, is a seventy-three-year-old Jewish man who is in the beginning stage of dementia. When Aaron meets Solomon, Aaron thinks that this is a terrible idea. Everything that Solomon says to the nurse, Aaron responds in his mind to Solomon and is astonished when Solomon answers him out loud. What? Can Solomon “hear” his thoughts?
This story touched me on many levels. My mother had Alzheimer’s disease, and we watched her slowly deteriorate. She would often think she was a little girl and would tell me that her daddy was coming to pick her up and take her home. It always made me wonder what she was thinking and where she would go in her mind. The trips into the past that Aaron took with Solomon resonated with me and made me wish I could have done that with my mother.
The book is a little bit “Forest Gump” in that Solomon and Aaron “meet” many well-known figures in their shared mental travels. The author weaves a lot of history into the story, which made me remember events and how they impacted me personally.
When I began reading the book, I thought it was YA fiction, but the more I read, I realized it was also for adults. The trips to the past will resonate with older adults, while young adults will enjoy the budding relationship between Aaron and Solomon’s granddaughter Sarah.
I completely loved this book. It is very layered – good character development – and a wide age-range of readers will enjoy it. It may also nudge you to play some Miles Davis in the background while you read. Thank you, Johan Twiss, for the ARC via BookSirens. I am thrilled to recommend this book to other readers.