Imagine that you quite suddenly and unexpectedly lost your twin senses of taste and smell? Life changing, yes. Life threatening, no. So you soldier on as best you can. But a few months later your sight fails. And then, while struggling to cope with that considerable loss, your hearing ceases to function, followed by your sense of touch. Ask yourself, would a life totally devoid of all sensory contact with the outside world still be worth living? That’s the premise of my novel, Senses.
The inspiration for this story came from something revealed to me when I was eleven or twelve. David, a young friend and neighbor of mine, told me about his uncle who was mugged. In the scuffle over his wallet, the assailant broke the uncle’s nose, damaging the olfactory nerves and causing him to lose his sense of smell. This incident languished in the depths of my subconscious for half a century. Then one day, for no obvious reason, I recalled that story and asked myself, what if? What if someone lost their sense of smell this way and, for various reasons, all their other senses as well? How unlucky. That’s when I knew I had the name of the main character and an intriguing plot.
The hapless protagonist in the novel is Lucky Morton, the hard-working, but easy-going thirty-five-year-old husband of Jill and father of Bethany and Stephen. The perpetual optimist, Lucky tries to make the best of his sensory loss, but Jill worries that her husband’s psychological solitary confinement is possibly driving him to the edge of madness. Absent the ability to communicate with Lucky, unfortunately, she can only surmise the state of his mind.
Jill must ultimately come to grips with her husband’s quality of life. With no imminent cure in sight, should she prolong his existence indefinitely—or mercifully end it. While trying to do what’s best for Lucky, however, she must take on external forces with opposing motives. Who will win the tug of war over Lucky’s fate?
Is a life totally devoid of all sensory contact with the outside world worth living? Is there life without the senses? Many states now sanction the removal of life support from patients deemed to be “brain dead.” But what if the brain is still very much alive, but merely cut off? As advances in medicine extend the ability to sustain life, could the “live brain” issue become more common? Society will likely be wrestling with that dilemma for some time to come.