I opened my front door to the quietest of knocks. Our six-year-old son waited with a stranger. My heart raced at the realization of what could have happened while he stood, wondered where I was, and walked the half mile from the bus stop to our house by himself. It was a Monday. And I’d forgotten that students were released one hour earlier than usual. The kindness of eleven-year-old Emily Hunt–who walked Garrett to the door, and her mother Laurie–who accompanied the pair by car, averted infinite scary scenarios that swirled around inside my head on that day and many more into the future. This was but one of a number of interactions between our family and the Hunts, who’d moved to the community long before we arrived. Within the year, Peter had asked me to join the board of our community association. Two years later, Hunt chose to Lean In and become a member of the Oak Harbor School Board, much of the time as its president (he continues his service today). And before he gave up his position as a member of the Dugualla Community, Inc. Board, much of it as president, he, along with Roger Pierce, was instrumental in negotiating a conservation easement with Whidbey Camano Land Trust to prevent the development of about 30 acres of wetland and 128 feet of shoreline in an estuary highly coveted as habitat for smolt. The year we moved close enough to Peter and Laurie Hunt for our kids to share a bus stop, 2005, was the same one he was diagnosed with Young-onset Parkinson’s disease at age 43.
“Parkinson’s disease (PD) affects 1–2 per 1000 of the population at any time. PD prevalence is increasing with age and PD affects 1% of the population above 60 years…PD is regarded as a movement disorder with three cardinal signs: tremor, rigidity and bradykinesia,” and “Young-onset Parkinson’s disease (YOPD) occurs in people younger than 50 years of age…YOPD affects about two to 10 percent of the one million people with PD in the United States.” By my averaging math, YOPD affects about 6% of 1.5/1000 or 1 in 10,000…sigh.
My alter ego (which is not very alter, since I use my real name) is as an Amazon reviewer. Here’s what I had to say about The Lost Intruder:
Full disclosure: I know Peter Hunt. My friends and I consider myself a book snob, and I don’t let acquaintanceship get in the way of that. I enjoyed Hunt’s first two books, Angles of Attack, and Setting the Hook: A Diver’s Return to the Andrea Doria, but I loved The Lost Intruder. The story is an awesome combination of: the author’s philosophical ideas; his experiences with early-onset Parkinson’s Disease including undergoing deep brain stimulation surgery; details of “the search for a missing Navy jet;” and events leading up to, during, and shortly after the plane ends up in the Salish Sea, including my favorite action-pack chapter (Seven) in which Hunt provides a blow by blow account of the A-6’s final flight based on interviews, standard operating procedures, incident reports, and his own extensive knowledge of the aircraft. Peter shares more than his acquaintances might expect about the neurological disorder that has afflicted him for the past twelve years (p xiii), “[Parkinson’s disease] is the human equivalent of a run-on sentence, following a meandering and listless course across unknown terrain, always searching for continuity and focus.” After a typical night of medication/medical-condition-induced insomnia, he writes (p 78); “Borrowing from a pilot’s phrase relating to cabin depressurization and hypoxia, a condition of insufficient oxygen that can lead to lightheadedness, passing out, and even death, I’d come to think of these precious morning hours as my ‘time of useful consciousness’…When not actively searching for the 510, a surrogate activity would be found or invented to bridge the gap. The strategy was simple: aggressively accumulate small victories during the day to bolster morale during each long darkness;’” and acquaintances’ inability to understand his condition; (p 82) “The physical changes to my body were simply beyond the ken of most people. And why wouldn’t they be? What life experience was necessary to instill an individual with the proper balance of empathy, intuition, and knowledge to allow them to take a good look around, to stand in my shoes? I could not come up with an answer, so how could I possibly expect anyone else to be genuinely thoughtful about my circumstances.”
His honesty is refreshing. Who wouldn’t feel like this when faced with the risk of revealing details of an important secret, (p 57) “The lost Intruder project took a significant step forward on the morning of May 3rd as five men I barely knew showed up at the Deception Pass Marina to assist in a day of sonar scanning. Lacking self-confidence for the first time in my life, I struggled with a sense of vulnerability, a disease induced free-floating anxiety that others might try to take advantage of the situation in some inexplicable way”? Beyond the behavioral and philosophical is the search, which began in January 2014 and ended, well…that would be telling.
In summary, in his third book, Hunt does his best work ever at building suspense and sharing clues in a way that will rivet readers. I enjoy the unraveling of a mystery as much as anyone else, but even more, I like to know what’s going on inside a person’s head. Best of the book, stuff like this (Pp 95-97) “It was not that long ago when “things” had been important to me…It had been a hollow existence, devoid of true compassion or circumspection. But, oddly, I felt no resentment or sadness; no sorrow or regret over wasted priorities and time. This reflection’s only negative emotion stemmed from a mild frustration at my inability to convince others that I was now, for perhaps the first time in my life, genuinely happy…[I will let you read the middle section for yourself] First…Second…Third…And finally, grow to accept that you know nothing; in fact, revel in it. Be happy.” As the book jacket says, “The Lost Intruder soars in a triumph of the human spirit–see what it means to be alive.”
Don’t miss your opportunity to meet the author and learn more about The Lost Intruder at the Anacortes Public Library at 7:00 pm on Wednesday, January 10.