The Night Guest
By Fiona McFarlane
Faber and Faber, Inc., 2013. 241 pgs. Fiction
Fiona McFarlane's debut novel is a captivating, meditative mystery that examines the process of aging, memory, and relationships through the eyes of Beth; an aging widow living alone, except for two cats and a tiger who she thinks she hears at night prowling through her house. Then Frida arrives, claiming to have been sent by the government, and whips Ruth's world into order, all the while worming her way deeper and deeper into Ruth's life. As Ruth's world begins to slip at the edges with the blur of dementia, it is difficult for the reader to discern reality and the truth until suddenly everything snaps into focus with a stunning and heart wrenching conclusion.
However, the mystery is not what captures center stage in this book. Much of the text is a beautiful, meditative reverie of a woman in her twilight years slipping between the present day and her past; memories of her childhood in Fiji, past loves, her own children, and her present life all crowd her mind and cause the reader to slide into a similar hazy view. Having lived with my own grandmother as she slipped into dementia I found this book particularly poignant and very accurate in the depiction of the phase of life. It is a fairly quick and thought provoking read.