No nation I’ve ever heard of
- Hide by Matthew Griffin
Bloomsbury, 272 pp, £16.99, August 2016, ISBN 978 1 4088 6708 2
At the beginning of Matthew Griffin’s novel, Wendell, his eighty-something narrator, finds his partner collapsed in their garden, face up in the North Carolina sun. Frank will recover from the immediate effects of his stroke, but the book charts his decline into physical debility and dementia, as well as Wendell’s increasingly desperate efforts to care for him. Care doesn’t always look the way one might expect, however. Late in the novel, as Frank becomes more and more confused, he refuses to wear his dentures, complaining that they hurt. ‘Put them in,’ Wendell demands. ‘I’m not going to stand around here all day and watch you looking like some toothless idiot.’ Frank acquiesces, but his hands are shaking badly and he can’t get the dentures into his mouth; in frustration, he throws them across the room. Wendell picks them up, ‘soil and grime and dog hair all stuck to them by saliva’, and – in one of the book’s many small, cruel moments of drama – tries to force them in:
He starts bellowing like a cow, then runs out of air and starts wheezing, grabs my wrist and tries to wrench it away, but I keep it right where it is, pull the partial off and shove it on again, a little harder this time, so hard my fingers slip off and jab his pulpy, wet palate. He bites my hand.
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