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Scar Tissue Hardcover – Oct 1994


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Product details

  • Hardcover
  • Publisher: Farrar Straus & Giroux (T) (Oct. 1994)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0374254281
  • ISBN-13: 978-0374254285
  • Product Dimensions: 1.9 x 15.2 x 22.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,185,179 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 22 Nov. 2000
Format: Paperback
Scar Tissue is the narrator's account of his mother's death from Alzheimer's disease. His family's genetic disposition for the illness tragically destroys his life. The novel recounts the death of the narrator's father and mother as well as the end of his marriage. The combination of reason and emotion, science and philosophy is perfectly balanced. Ignatieff shows intelligence and wit through the thoughts and insight displayed by the narrator. The format of the narrative is keenly realistic, through memories, speeches, essays, scientific facts and dialog. These elements add interesting branches to the storyline. The characters lag behind in development. The characters Miranda, Jack and the narrator's wife are not fully developed. They do not acquire personalities or complex attitudes. Ignatieff makes up for this shortfall with the drama and truth of the story. The novel captures the pain of an individual and his family as they deal with death. In this book "Ignatieff artfully expresses the intensity and depth of his passion for life and for knowledge" (Nadeau 1). Scar Tissue is a novel that studies the one area in life that everyone must face yet we all try to avoid; death. The reader is shown one way to accept fate and not fear dying.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Anthony Davis on 4 Oct. 2010
Format: Paperback
I cannot agree in any way that Scar Tissue is 'humourless' - it really does depend what one means by humour, though, because this is not a joke-book, nor does it claim to be!

I fully endorse the four-star review of this title, but believe that my recollection of the book is clear enough to say that this reviewer (and the other positive reviewer, who picks up this question) is missing the point in saying:

'The characters lag behind in development. The characters Miranda, Jack and the narrator's wife are not fully developed.'

My reason is that it is my firm belief that the narrative is so definitely from the narrator's point of view that it is *his* inadequacy in relating to these named others that is deliberately being portrayed here, not the author's inability to have 'developed' those chatacters, if, consistent with what I see as his purpose, he had wanted to.

Of course, I agree that we sometimes want a book to be a different book from what it is (as I did, with Garrison Keillor's Love Me, when it turned 'a bizarre corner' and lost my faith in where it / we was / were going), but I am sure that the characterization (of the narrator) and the lack of it in others is intentional, not a fault.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 30 Sept. 1999
Format: Paperback
To be honest, I read this book quite a few years ago. Up until now, I was unaware it had been shortlisted for the Booker Prize as I had picked it out randomly at a bookshop. Although I wasn't bored whilst reading this, the ending was a rather flattening, draining experience. Yes, it's true that the subject of senility (in this case the male protaganists mother) should never be treated lightly. However, the reader along with the protaganist becomes too bogged down in the book's atmosphere of grief and despair. I was glad to have waded myself out of it.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 16 Feb. 2001
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This novel, short-listed for the Booker Prize, is about the narrator's relationship with his mother, who is suffering from dementia, and how this affects him and his other relationships. I found it to be revealing and well-written, but at the end felt somewhat disappointed. I think I just found it very difficult to empathise with the central character; he just didn't come alive for me. I also agree with the other reviewer that the other characters were not described in sufficient detail to elicit much of a reaction.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 7 reviews
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
The heartbreaking loss of an aging parent 16 Nov. 1998
By Rick Hunter - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Michael Ignatieff's 1994 novel Scar Tissue is the story of two brothers, one a neurologist and the other a philosophy professor, coming to grips with their aged mother's descent into a wasting neurological disorder (Alzheimers?). Neither philosophy or science are able to make sense of the illness, and the question ultimately becomes how the narrator and his brother are to carry on in the face of the inexplicable. This is a sensitive story, finely told.
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
The Way of All Minds 31 Jan. 2005
By Stan Persky - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Although Michael Ignatieff is primarily known as a writer of intelligent books of accessible political theory, his short novel, "Scar Tissue," published more than a decade ago, is a beautifully observed, emotionally precise account of the fraying of minds, flesh, and relationships. It's one the earliest of several good books about the loss of a parent through Alzheimer's disease -- Ignatieff's novel is comparable to John Bayley's memoir of his wife, Iris Murdoch -- but it's more than that. Ignatieff's fiction-maybe-memoir (it has an intensely autobiographical feel) also presents an unsentimental, even merciless, portrait of the book's narrator and his relations with parents, spouse, and others. Again and again, I was struck, and moved by, the psychological accuracy of the book, and the writer's courage in facing up to not only a lot of the "big questions," but to the cost of one's own self-deceptions.
Scar Tissue got a modicum of attention when it first appeared, but I've long had the sense that it deserves many more readers. In addition to all else, I'd put it on any list of "Best Canadian Novels" of the last 15 years.
Life's Grotesque 5 Jan. 2009
By Gergana Atanasova - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Scar Tissue by Michael Ignatieff is a book about the omnipresent human struggle for answers. It is about a man's journey to the country of doubt where neither spirituality nor science prove to be sufficient enough to define the universal meaning of life.
The narrator, a middle-aged professor of philosophy, is shattered by his mother's mental condition. She is diagnosed with Alzheimer. The family tragedy is worsened by the sudden death of his father. This forces the narrator to reconnect to his brother, a neuroscientist. He needs his knowledge about the workings of the human brain in order to understand his mother's traumatized mentality and tormented fate. Unfortunately, scientific theories turn out to be useless. Having spent his entire life among the shelves in the library, among the existential questions of Aristotle and Plato, the narrator finally realizes that what human race really needs are neither words, nor question marks. It is answers. Not in the form of sentences, of facts, but in the form of serenity.
The narrator makes a living by giving lectures about the meaning of life. Years after years, he had tried to solve the puzzle of existence by turning it into a labyrinth of rhetorical questions and contradictory hypotheses. Only to find out that, sadly, words have their unavoidable limit. As Stephen King once wrote, "The most important things are the hardest to say. They are the things you get ashamed of, because words diminish them - words shrink things that seemed limitless when they were in your head to no more than living size when they're brought out." As Michael Ignatieff himself writes in his novel, "We tell stories as if to refuse this truth, as if to say that we make our fate, rather than simply endure it. But in truth we make nothing." Faced with the meaninglessness of his overflowing words, the narrator starts losing his identity, his security - just like his ill mother. In the end, he is on the same stairway as her - the stairway towards extinction. Not because of a mental or physical condition, but due to the very fact that the only thing that ever confirmed his existence was a beautifully arranged bouquet of empty words.
With finesse, Michael Ignatieff succeeds in writing a novel about the meaninglessness of writing novels. About the insignificance of words, of philosophy, of science when faced with life's grotesque frown.
The novel as memoir: a clearly and intelligently written family breakdown story 21 Aug. 2006
By Shalom Freedman - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
This is from page one, a clearly and beautifully written work. It is a novel, and for all I know there is much 'fictional' in it, but I read it as a memoir. It is ostensibly the story of the narrator's mother's mental breakdown, her deterioration in a form of Alzheimer. i.e. the work ostensibly centers on the 'mother' her life, her story, what happens to her mind. But it is much more than that . It is a family, or two family stories, and both of breakdown.

The principal story is of family the narrator grew up in. The secondary story is of his own family, his wife and children. The connection is not made so directly, but clearly the breakdown of one family, the illness of the mother and the son narrator's intense devotion to her, lead to the breakdown of the second family, his leaving his wife and two children.

The book also tells the story of two other major characters, the narrator's father and brother. The father a Russian immigrant to America , and the lesser loved parent dies in the course of the mother's illness. The presentation of the lives of the parents, and the relations between them is done in a strong and convincing way. Here again the writer blends present experience and memory in a most effective way.

Also the story of the two brothers is important in relating to a fundamental philosophical theme of the work ie the true meaning of self and identity. The physician brother provides hard scientific insight which of course does not solve the mystery of the mother's mental deterioration, but provides nonetheless a path for understanding it.

The book again is written clearly and is a fluent and gripping read.

My reservations are a bit on the ethical side. The son's seeming lack of attention to his own children in his obsessive care for his mother is to my mind a major fault. Despite the authenticity of the relationships depicted I found myself a bit reserved in feeling , perhaps at my own failure to deeply like , or sympathize with the suffering parents, main characters.

Yet I think my reservations are unimportant here. This book is especially strong in depicting the complexity of family relations, the painful difficulties of real familial relationships.

It too, when it comes down to it, seems to me to succeed as a kind of 'love story' as one in which the narrator- son does display a tremendous devotion and love to his mother.

A humane and again beautifully written book. Very highly recommended.
2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
a beautiful and brave novel 20 Nov. 2004
By Melanie - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Michael Ignatieff's novel is written from the perspective of a son who has a mother with a family with a history of dementia. The title reflects the fact that scan of the brain shows scar tissue, and this is how her condition is first diagnoised. The son, the protagonist, is a philosophy professor who has successfully started a life of his own, complete with a very satisfying career and a family of his own. The novel captures the story of his mother, father, and his brother and their experiences in dealing with the mother's diagnosis of premature senile dementia and the progression of her condition.

This book won the MIND Book of the Year: Allen Lane Award (an annual UK award given to a Fiction/Nonfiction book about mental health) and was short-listed for the Booker Prize. The writing is astounding, and as a result I was unprepared for the author's ability to describe the emotional journey of the protagonist. I found myself haunted by the themes and subject matter in the same way that someone passing by a car wreck can't help but stop to stare.

Ignatieff examines what dementia does to the identity of the sufferer and he references the de Kooning, the famous American painter who developed Alzheimer's disease and yet continued to paint. He also examines what dementia does to his own identity, as he find himself trying to figure out who he is when his own mother no longer recognizes him as her son.

This book is a great achievement and will especially appeal to those readers who are seeking a book about illness and the philosophies related to illness and identity.
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