All the words we know

reviewed by Wendy Tucker
written by Bruce Nash
This is the third novel from local author, Bruce Nash, and it has, deservedly, found a respected commercial publisher with all the advantages of overseas publishing and audio books.
Rose, who is our unreliable narrator throughout, is in her 80s, in a nursing home and has dementia. When Rose finds that her Scrabble partner has died by apparently falling from her window, she remembers other strange deaths and suspects the nursing home is making room for higher paying residents. Has this something to do with the Angry Nurse or the platitude-speaking Golden Scare Manager, who is clearly becoming richer? What about her dutiful son, who has her Power of Eternal and her password: past word, words of the past. Something is not right, and Rose must find out.
It’s not the mysterious deaths and embezzlement that is at the heart of this novel, it is Rose and language. Rose must sort through the past and the present, the remembered and forgotten. And the love of language is at the heart of Rose and the novel. The language is playful and deftly funny. Muddled words and puns engage the reader, I’m in Somalia (when Rose has insomnia). The wordplay shines and delights throughout Rose’s journey with times of lucidity and also into the darkness of fear and forgetting. Rose is fixated on words and how words can strip the elderly of power, I am someone, you know, while her Scare Plan is reviewed, her own new Therapeutic Intervention Regime.
Nash has written a wickedly entertaining novel but also a genuinely moving novel about aging, loving, losing and gaining. He has made me laugh and cry at the same time, as the best of writers do.