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The Last Language: A Novel

by Jennifer DuBois

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1121,705,125 (3.5)None
"Provocative and profound in its exploration of what makes us human, The Last Language is the story of Angela's work using an experimental therapy with her nonspeaking patient, Sam, and their relationship that ensues"--

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This novel is built upon an interesting premise. A young widow, working on a graduate degree in language is expelled from her program for some pretty dubious charges that seem to arise out of petty professional jealousy. I'll paraphrase here something attributed to the late Henry Kissinger—academic politics are brutal because the rewards are so small.

In this case, the protagonist, Angela, winds up taking a job as a research assistant on a project involving a specious device that purports to communicate with patients who lack language. If one excuses DuBois for these admittedly weak plot devices, the narrative takes off when Angela begins to work with a disabled and shuttered young man about her own age. Using the device, she seems to discover that he may have a rich inner life. An unlikely physical attraction ensues between the two with negative consequences for Angela.

The narrative includes multiple asides on how language works in various cultures. These only seem to interrupt the smooth flow of the plot. Likewise, Angela's relationship with her own daughter and mother, acting as the main childcare provider, never develops well enough to become much more than another aside. Similarly, her relationship with her deceased husband is just left there hanging. The most compelling elements in the narrative, however, are its exploration of disability and its impact on families and caregivers. duBois' suggestions that the communication between the two lovers may have never actually existed, but was some ill-defined delusion brought on by the stresses in Angela's own life and magical thinking are subtle plot elements but intriguing to contemplate. Indeed, maybe the communication device was only a typewriter as some skeptics implied. ( )
  ozzer | Jan 27, 2024 |
This novel is told from the perspective of Angela, a widowed mother of a young child. Following her expulsion from Harvard's PhD program, she is faced with thousands in student debt and forced to take a job that is neither within her experience or expertise teaching non-verbal people to communicate on something resembling a typewriter.

Sam, a 28-year-old man, is her first client, who lives with his single mother. As they begin to work together to establish communication, Angela is stunned to discover that Sam is able to relate his emotions and an understanding of books he has read that are complicated and erudite.

Jennifer duBois has done a masterful job of creating their interactions and evolving relationship. We are left wondering if Angela's results are real or imagined. I would like to think that the unbelievable is often believable. ( )
  pdebolt | Jan 8, 2024 |
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"Provocative and profound in its exploration of what makes us human, The Last Language is the story of Angela's work using an experimental therapy with her nonspeaking patient, Sam, and their relationship that ensues"--

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