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The Husband She Couldn't Remember by Maggie Shayne
(Silh. Int. Mom. #854, $4.25, PG) ISBN 0-373-07854-4
Penny Brand wakes up in a medical facility in England with no memory of who she is or how she got there. She also doesn't understand why she is being kept there against her will since she doesn't feel ill. Conveniently, she finds a slip of paper in the lining of her jacket that makes reference to the name of a ranch in Quinn, Texas. Realizing this may be the link to her identity, she escapes from the clinic and by theft and cunning makes her way to the Brand Ranch in Texas.

For two years, Ben Brand has been mourning the death of his wife Penny since her charred remains were recovered in a car accident. Identified only by her wedding ring, this fiery death brought a lonely conclusion to Penny's fight with Hillman-Waite Syndrome, which is described as a degenerative disease of the nervous system that is 100% fatal.

Penny and Ben had been an item since pre-teen years and were married after the diagnosis was made. Ben agonized as he watched her deteriorate, but more than the physical wasting away, he had suffered through her personality change, from the vibrant to the defeated. Now, In an irrational display of guilt, he blames himself for not being present at her death.

Ben constantly sees Penny in his dreams. Suddenly, he begins to believe that she has come back. He keeps seeing her in strange places. One day in El Paso he literally runs into her. Frightened, she flees. Concerned about his mental health, the rest of the Brand family (who appear individually in Shayne's "Texas Brand" series) rush to his side.

Ben's claim to have seen Penny is unexpectedly strengthened by the Texas Rangers who have tried to apprehend her for failure to return a car to a used car lot. Now, Ben's brother, Garrett, who is the local sheriff, seeks an exhumation order for the remains buried in his wife's grave. Standing at graveside before the backhoe approaches, who should appear next to him? you guessed it, his wife!

Amnesia is always a popular theme, but Shayne puts an innovative spin on it by making it drug-induced amnesia. Even so, this is an unlikely story, propped up with characters introduced in other novels. All of the contrived circumstances in this book stretch my imagination beyond that of enjoyment.

Penny was admitted to this clinic/hospice as a terminally ill HWS patient In a coma for 2 years, she is given a drug that induces amnesia. Why? And they kept her clothing. Why? She finds a slip of paper with a clue to her identity in the lining. Convenient? She steals a credit card from a nurse and buys an airline ticket to the US. Imagine boarding an international flight now without a picture ID? And how about a passport?

She arrives in Texas and absconds with a car from a used car lot. The owner of the lot provides her picture to the Texas Rangers. How? She has a stolen credit card, but the picture looks just like her. Wait a minute! She drives to another town, checks in to a motel. Shortly thereafter, the Texas Rangers find her at that motel in the parking lot. (I know they are good, but wow!) You get the idea.

This novel passes through the inventive barrier and plunges on into the highly improbable. I can recommend it only if collecting inconsistencies amuses you.

--Thea Davis

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