Nicole Seitz has never been an author who chose the easy road in selecting topics for her novels, and she certainly tackles a difficult one in her new novel The Inheritance of Beauty. In this book she focuses on the problems of aging and faces the issues involved head on and without flinching. This topic limits her potential audience as there are some young readers who would prefer not to enter into a story about "old people", and there are older readers who do not wish to be faced with what possibly lies ahead.
Still for those who want to be captured by colorful characters and a challenging plot The Inheritance of Beauty should not be missed. In this book Seitz sets her book in the present but travels back in time to flesh out the mystery of George and Maggie Jacobs.
When the book opens George and his wife Maggie are in a nursing home. They are both elderly but George is in better mental health than Maggie. He is able to function and enjoy some of the pleasures of life while his wife Magnolia/Maggie is unable to speak. George tries to communicate with her but he is never sure that she hears him.
When a new person arrives at the nursing home it impacts George and Maggie's life. This new man is named Joe Stackhouse and he was part of George and Maggie's lives when they were children in Levy, South Carolina. It was during the summer when Joe arrived in town with his magician father that a tragedy occurred. This tragedy forced Maggie's brother Ash to leave town and never be heard from again.
Seitz's book explores the mystery of those summer events and why Ash had to go. It also delves into the role Joe played in all this. It would be easy to get everything explained by Joe but in this story he is unable to remember the past or even at times who he is. Again age is the villain and the keeper of secrets.
The book is a difficult read in many ways but mostly in the way life has worn down the main characters. George finds out his health is deteriorating and he panics over how Maggie will survive without him. The reader gets a chance to go inside Maggie's mind and learn she can hear and understand but she can't communicate. She is totally dependent on George and on their care-giver Annie.
The characters are well drawn and each player in the story has his/her moment of importance. You feel for the characters even if you do not empathize totally with them. Perhaps readers do not want to get too close to what their futures might be.
Nicole Seitz plunges into worlds and situations that are not always the most comfortable for us or for her. She frames her story and then goes ahead full force whatever the consequences. It may not make for easy reading but it makes for important reading.
This book gives us pause as we consider the road ahead, and it also makes us thankful for the world we have today. Any story that causes that much reflection is one to be appreciated.
The Inheritance of Beauty is published by Thomas Nelson. It contains 307 pages and sells for $14.99.
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