KNOCK KNOCK WHO'S THERE? by Michael Shocket
19 The Cinques, Gamlingay, Sandy
Bedfordshire SG193NU, England
ISBN: 0755202414, $14.95, 212 pp, 2006
To begin, let me tell you that Michael Shocket is my favorite POD author. There’s a special ‘something’ in his writing that always delights me. I know he’s in his early eighties, but his mind is ‘young at heart.’ I have reviewed two of his books this year which you can find in my Archives: The Binding of Isaac in March and Know Me Tomorrow in May. As I said in my second review, "He has an intimate, casual tone (not quite as intimate and casual as Stephen King’s, but similar) with spurts of humor, drama and a strong sense of sexuality. His honesty, human foibles and compassion ring true and clear . . . ."
His titles always fascinate me, and to the question of this title, Knock Knock Who’s There?, I would have to answer: Life . . . life with all its ups and downs, joys and sorrows, love and hate, politics, finances, health, sexual encounters, friends and most importantly . . . family. And I quote from the back cover:
"This is a family story, told in turn by each of its members. The matriarch, Diana, a retired headmistress of repute, is suffering from Alzheimer’s. Although smitten with episodes of dementia, she has recurrent period of wisdom, enabling her to play a crucial role in dealing with the various crises which beset her daughter, Harriet, son, Adrian, his wife, Mildred, and their accident-prone children, Sophie, an art student, and Nick, a teenager, who is unable to keep out of trouble."
A unique technique Michael uses is writing from a first-person point of view (POV) for each main character in the novel, so you know what the person is thinking and feeling, which brings you more intimately into his/her life. Another facet I like is his ability to weave contemporary issues–politics, drugs, teenage violence, unwanted pregnancies, extramarital sex, the tragic effects of Alzheimer’s–into this family story. He opens with Adrian completely paralyzed in a hospital bed and only able to communicate by blinking his eyes, once for "yes" and twice for "no," and comes full circle to close with the resolution of Adrian’s problem.
Allow me to provide you with a sample of Michael’s writing and share one such issue as Diana writes a letter to Mildred, from pages 124-125:
"I’m taking the opportunity to write this while still in relatively full control of my faculties. It’s open to question whether or not I am fortunate in having the diagnosis of Alzheimer’s made known to me in its very early stages. On the one hand I am able to make appropriate arrangements, prepare psychologically for what lies ahead, and avoid being taken by surprise by the symptoms which will inevitably arise. On the other hand, if I were unaware of the condition I’d be spared the agony of knowing that I am inevitably going to lose the faculty of reason - the most precious one of all. I’d rather lose sight, hearing or both my legs.
"However, Dr. Alzheimer may not know it yet, but he’s got a fight on his hands. There are still enough cells functioning in this old brain of mine to resist his weapons of biological warfare. Diana Harcourt-Smith has no intention of going like a lamb to the slaughter. Apart from anything else she’s an incorrigible optimist. What do you know about stem cell research, Dr. Alzheimer? Even if it’s too late for me - and I’ve got a sneaking hope it might not be - one way or another we’ll beat you! Please take note of the fact that - given the opportunity - I intend to volunteer to be a guinea pig on any experimental programme.
"Brave words! But realistically I have to face the fact that I am likely be reach the stage of becoming little more than a vegetable, except that certain unpleasant animal functions will persist, and make me a disgusting burden either to those I love, until they can no longer stand the sight, sound and smell of me. And then what? There’s the prospect of being the discarded shell of a human being kept alive in some infernal asylum, in the unwelcome company of other creatures best described as the walking dead. I can’t rid myself of the thought that somewhere inside the useless and offensive husk of my body will be some element that is me. Will I be remotely conscious of what I have become? Because that, Dr. Alzheimer is a condition I cannot - and will not - accept. The alternative is inescapable, and the purpose of this document is to ensure that, while I am still of reasonably sound mind, I can make my wishes known.
"I do not want my body to survive my brain, whether the solution is suicide or euthanasia. It would be a simple matter for me to put an end to it all here and now. The idea has indeed crossed my mind, but been quickly dismissed. I love my life too much. I always have. Even in its darkest moments, after the death of my beloved Arthur, I clung to the comfort of a wonderful family, learned to laugh again, immersed myself in work which brought me both satisfaction and pleasure. I’m blessed with the joy of having two wonderful grandchildren.
"Perhaps what makes the wonders of this world - this life - so precious is their very transience, and my awareness of being deprived of them before very long. I savor the delights of each season, even the harshest chill of winter.
"God bless you - if there can be a God - and, if not, let me bless you, dearest Mildred, together with all my wonderful family."
Dr. Michael Shocket is a retired lecturer living in Hertfordshire. Knock Knock Who's There? is his third novel, and I highly recommend them all!
Reviewed by Kaye Trout - August 27, 2006