Today we have a sneak peek from the suspense novel by author Diane Winger: Faces.
What if you could no longer recognize faces?
Following a head injury from a rock climbing accident, Jessica faces a disturbing future where everyone looks like a stranger. When a team of embezzlers stumbles upon her diagnosis of prosopagnosia – face blindness – they seize the opportunity to entangle her in their scheme. As she discovers the scam and alerts the authorities, she becomes a target in a masquerade far more dangerous than the extreme sports she loves.
Here is an excerpt from Faces…
Finally, the battery of tests was complete. She was escorted into Dr. Nguyen’s office, where he sat at a desk, flipping through papers in a folder and peering at a now-familiar image on his computer screen — a brain. Probably my sorry-ass brain, Jessica thought.
“Jessica, your brain injury has improved considerably since your accident, and I’m pleased with the results of the cognitive tests you took today. I see no signs of problems with your visual or verbal skills, your motor skills are good, and your memory is fine.”
Jessica let out a breath. She hadn’t realized she hadn’t been breathing while listening to the doctor’s words.
“However,” he began again. Jessica froze. “The facial recognition tests you took today and what I’m seeing in today’s scan could indicate damage to an area of your brain called the fusiform gyrus.” He turned the monitor so she could see it better. Jessica stared at the image. Her brain. Her … damaged brain.
“Jessica, take a look at your CT scan. See this area near the lower rear of your brain?” He pointed with his pen. “This is the area that was affected by your concussion.”
She knitted her brows and nodded slowly.
“This area is thought to be involved in facial recognition. It’s certainly a possibility that you are experiencing prosopagnosia. It’s sometimes known popularly as face blindness, although that’s a very misleading term since it isn’t a form of blindness at all.”
Jessica frowned. This was exactly what she had focused on with her web research. She had hoped she was wrong, but now this expert was confirming her hunch.
“The term prosopagnosia comes from the Greek words for ‘face’ and ‘not knowing.’ It’s not a problem with memory or vision or a learning disability. Our brains have a very special way of recognizing human faces that is quite sophisticated, and we believe part the area of your brain that was injured is where that processing takes place.”
Dr. Nguyen continued his discussion of her condition. Her thoughts flew rapidly from question to question about what this might mean — would people believe that her “brain damage” was limited to this crazy problem with recognizing faces? What would they think at work, where her job relied on the ability to solve problems with logic and attention to a plethora of details, and to be able to present software users with well-designed visual interfaces.
“…wait several more months before we know if this is permanent…”
Jessica registered a phrase now and then, but her mind continued racing. Would friends and co-workers be offended if she failed to recognize them? Would she ever be able to make new friends?