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3:41 A Novel

By Dennis Aiden Lockhart

Reviewed by Cheryl A. Chatfield, Ph.D.
3:41 A Novel by Dennis Aiden Lockhart
Cover Concept by Lorenzo Princi, 29 November 2013

Even though I'm not a runner, and this story centers around running, I was fascinated with the thoughts of the main character, a runner fighting early stages of Alzheimer's Disease at the young age of thirty-something. I learned much about the sport and saw valid analogies to life through the dedication, commitment and challenges. The stream-of-consciousness technique used to fill us in on the character and his background needed some editing in the middle of the story, but after a short time the action picked up again and kept the reader in suspense to the end. The fact that Tim Hardman, the protagonist, could remember nothing of the details of his previous day was reminiscent of the movie Groundhog Day in reverse, because in the movie the character remembers his previous day while others in his life do not. Here, Hardman has no knowledge of his past while all around him do. I was not disappointed in the ending, as commented by another reviewer, but won't reveal it as the surprising twists add, I feel, to the overall success, and I don't want to spoil that for anyone.

I liked Hardman and his sense of humor. These always help me get into a story. Hardman was real and believable, especially with the challenges he faced of losing his memory each morning, and I enjoyed his creative way of ensuring some remembrance of significant events. His interaction with his wife creates much of the suspense as his situation and background are revealed gradually through his thoughts, and one must be patient and vigilant to put the time-frames and events of his life together.

Hardman suffers from MCI, a potential precursor to Alzheimer's. This intrigued me since I lost my mother to Alzheimer's. With that background, however, I was a little ill at ease trying to decide if the author understood the disease as no one in my experience had similar early symptoms. My concern prompted me to do something I've never done. Before writing a review, I wrote to the author and asked him about his intentions. And I'm glad I did. I include part of his answer here, with his permission, because it provides further insight into the story. I always like that. 

Lockhart volunteered in an Alzheimer's facility, but, as he explains, "I wanted to explore someone who was completely isolated from the world and yet had a significant percentage of his facilities, both mental and physical, intact...I have always been curious, without finding the answer, as to how people who know they are going to be engulfed by Alzheimer's approach the future. I understand what those close to them anticipate, but what do the people themselves think?" An excellent question, and I recommend this story as one exploration of that answer. I was pleased to hear that Lockhart intends a sequel to further the story of Tim Hardman's struggle.

This novel, however, is much more than a question of dealing with a horrific disease; the story forces us to ask questions about our own life as we glimpse into the mind of a runner, which is a fascinating and enjoyable world even for someone who has never participated in that sport.