Natasha, the renowned pianist suffering from early-onset Alzheimer's in my book Apart from Love (volume I and II of the series, woven together) kept coming back to haunt me. Her character was not an easy one to develop. The primary challenge is that she has no voice. She is utterly silent, which makes her son Ben hope—at first—that she can be reached, that he can, somehow, save her.
“There is no way to tell if she has heard me. Her gaze is fixed, as steadily as before, on the same small pane of glass, through which the sun is blazing; which makes it hard to figure out what she sees out there.
I push forward, aiming to view it, somehow, from her angle, which at first, is too hard to imagine:
In my mind I try, I see a map, the entire map of her travels around the world. A whole history. It has been folded over and again, collapsed like a thin tissue, into a square; which is suspended there—right in front of her—a tiny, obscure dot on that window.
And inside that dot, the path of her journey crisscrosses itself in intricate patterns, stacked in so many papery layers. And the names of the places, in which she performed back then, in the past—London, Paris, Jerusalem, San Petersburg, New York, Tokyo—have become scrambled, illegible even, because by now, she can no longer look past that thing, that dot. She cannot see out of herself.
She is, I suppose, confined.”
My novel, The Music of Us (volume III in the series) gives voice to her.
“Once I find my way back, my confusion will dissipate, somehow. I will sit down in front of my instrument, raise my hand, and let it hover, touching-not-touching the black and white keys. In turn they will start their dance, rising and sinking under my fingers. Music will come back, as it always does, flowing through my flesh, making my skin tingle. It will reverberate not only through my body but also through the air, glancing off every surface, making walls vanish, allowing my mind to soar.
Then I will stop asking myself, Where am I, because the answer will present itself at once. This is home. This, my bench. The dent in its leather cushion has my shape. Here I am, at times turbulent, at times serene. I am ready to play. I am music.”
This novel starts out at 1970, when she starts to succumb to her illness, and goes a generation back, to 1941, the time that she and Lenny first fell in love. This is their story.