Nicholas Conley loves to tell stories, especially when fueled by travel or good coffee. His newest novel, Pale Highway, combines his love of storytelling, science fiction, and his experiences working with Alzheimer’s patients. The novel is available October 20th.
Gabriel Schist was once the Nobel Prize winner for creating a vaccine for AIDS. Back then, Gabriel was younger, rebellious, and had one of the finest minds in science. Now he’s stuck in a nursing home, suffering from Alzheimer’s. And he’s aware of it, making life in the nursing home that much worse.
When a fellow resident is struck with a horrible new virus, Gabriel’s world is turned upside down. One by one, the other residents fall prey to the virus, and Gabriel realizes he’s the only one who can stop its spread. But Gabriel’s brain isn’t cooperating this time. He’s losing bits of himself, having debilitating hallucinations, and fighting every step of the way as he tries desperately to find a cure. This time, his enemies aren’t just a horrible disease and a disbelieving public. Now he must struggle with his very mind if he’s to win the race to save the human race.
Pale Highway is a fast-paced ride into the mind of a man struggling against one of the most horrible diseases on the planet. Gabriel’s past is told in flashbacks to his youthful brilliance that contrast sharply with his Alzheimer’s symptoms. The enclosed world of the nursing home is his reality, and the other residents are vibrant characters who don’t understand Gabriel, or his struggles to save them. Even Gabriel doesn’t fully understand himself, but he wants to. Pale Highway brings his struggles for survival along with his fierce desire to hold off his symptoms long enough to save everyone around him to brilliant, beautiful life.
On a personal note, I have a family history of Alzheimer’s, so Gabriel’s struggles with the disease were both heart wrenching and familiar. I’ve never read a story like this, where the protagonist struggles so profoundly with the disease, and the narrative brought it vividly to life. There’s also magic in this story, in the little things, and the big ones, that Gabriel discovers along the way. It’s well worth the read!