Still Time cover

Jean Hegland ’79

Arcade Publishing: 2015

Still Time, a new novel by Jean Hegland, explores dementia through the eyes of aging Shakespearean scholar John Wilson. Unsettled by life in a residential care facility and a surprise visit from his estranged daughter, Wilson finds solace and structure in the plays and poetry that so captivated his life.

Hegland, who shares poetry at a memory care center near her home in California, says she was inspired by her own responses to the Bard of Avon. “After attending a performance of one of Shakespeare’s plays, I am haunted by a collage of lines and phrases that echo through my mind for hours afterward,” she writes.

So too, does Professor Wilson evoke the witty, brash, or contemplative words of Shakespeare as he navigates the confusion of Alzheimer’s disease. Retreating into “green worlds”—scenes often played out in a fantastical environment away from day-to-day life—Wilson regains a bit of clarity. The interplay is especially poignant as father and daughter struggle with forgiveness and reconciliation.

“Do you remember me?” Wilson’s daughter asks when she first enters his room. “I remember thine eyes well enough,” he replies, borrowing lunatic King Lear’s reply to eyeless Gloucester as a ploy to buy more time. “I’m your daughter, Miranda,” she says.

“Miranda, his mind echoes, Admir’d Miranda, and, worth What’s dearest to the world, and, my daughter, who Art ignorant of what thou art.” Despite his spurt of hope, he studies her face cautiously, searching suggestions—her eyes, her lips, her hair.

Hegland’s 1996 novel, Into the Forest, was recently adapted for film. The post-apocalyptic drama stars Ellen Page (Juno) and Evan Rachel Wood (Once and Again) as teenaged sisters homeschooled in a remote forest in northern California. The girls are forced to survive by their wits as society and their idyllic lifestyle slowly collapse around them.