Run To Me

Title: Run to Mecover22416-medium
Author: Diane Hester
ISBN: 9781742756424
Source: Advance copy from publisher via NetGalley
Release Date: March 1, 2013
Rating: 4 out of 5

Synopsis:

It’’s been two years since Shyler O’Neil’’s beloved son Jesse was killed –but his final moments are as vivid to her now as they were that dreadful day. Suffering from post-traumatic stress and convinced she did not do enough to protect him, she retreats to an isolated cabin in the woods of northern Maine. Meanwhile, Zack Ballinger –a ten-year-old boy who has never known a mother’’s love – finds himself in the wrong place at the wrong time. He’’s seen too much and is now running for his life. Fleeing into the woods, Zack soon finds himself at Shyler’’s cabin. He’’ll take whatever help she can give –even though, for some reason, she keeps calling him Jesse . . . With the pursuers hot on their heels, ‘mother’ and ‘son’ go on the run. Protecting Zack may well be Shyler’’s one chance at redemption. Either that, or she is the child’’s greatest threat . . .

My Review:

This is a very well written novel. There is no mystery here but it is suspenseful. The characters are brilliant, especially Shyler. Shyler has been through a lot, the death of her son has scarred her and she has withdrawn from people and reality. Shyler’s character is very well nuanced and Hester does a superb job articulating Shyler’s thoughts and what all goes on in her mind.

Zack is another damaged character due the circumstances he has faced in his short life. Zack has grown up in foster homes and is mature beyond his age, yet there is a small child within him who yearns for a home and mother’s love. So he holds on to Shyler even after knowing that she is a bit unhinged and damaged.

The novel is written from the perspectives of Shyler, Zack and Dr. Chase Hadley. I couldn’t help but smile at that name! While Zack and Shyler are dealing with their own hells, Dr. Hadley is stuck in between them and offers to help. I loved the dialogues between Dr. Hadley and his father. There are parellel stories going on in this novel and yet it all comes together in a suspenseful climax. Do read this one! Highly recommended.

Before I Go To Sleep

Title: Before I Go To Sleep
Author: S J Watson
ISBN: 0062065238
Source: Library Copy
Rating: 3 out of 5

Synopsis: Christine wakes up every morning with a blank mind. The bed is unfamiliar and the man sleeping next to her is a stranger. When she looks into the mirror she finds herself a lot older than what she remembers. The man tells her that he is her husband Ben and they have been married for many years. He tells her about an accident two decades ago that is the cause of her amnesia. With the help of a doctor, Christine maintains a journal about her daily activities as an attempt to piece her life together. The first line in her journal reads ‘Don’t trust Ben..’

My Review:

Another interesting book with an interesting concept. The start of this book is captivating. I haven’t read very many books on amnesia so this was interesting. Christine, our narrator and protagonist suffers from various types of amnesia and every day when she wakes up she has to start her life from scratch. From her unreliable memory she has build the missing pieces of her life together and live each day as it comes.

I couldn’t help but think of 50 First Dates with a sinister twist. The mystery is very puzzling indeed at the start and I was quite drawn in. Somewhere even before the middle, I could make out what the twist or mystery would be and so the ending was a let down. I thought the climax should have been more detailed and well put out but it was handled as an afterthought or sorts.

Having said that, it still made me turn the page and keep reading on. I was sucked into it at the start but then the plot just frizzled out and I knew the ending even before I was halfway through the book. Still, a new concept for me and interesting plot at least at the beginning. So give it a read if you like mystery with a psychological thrill put into it.

Running with Scissors

‘Running with Scissors’ is a memoir by Augusten Burroughs about his crazy childhood and adolescence years with his dysfunctional family. His mother is a struggling writer who suffers from some form of mental illness (possibly bipolar or a personality disorder) and his father is a functional alcoholic who works as a university professor. Augusten’s older brother is John Elder Robison who wrote his own autobiography about growing up without a diagnosis. However, due to the age difference between the two, John is featured minimally as he had already moved out of home when Augusten started his memoirs. Augusten’s parents constantly bicker and fight to the point where he thought they would definitely kill one another.

In order to save their marriage, they saw a psychiatrist, Dr Finch, one who his mother had been seeing individually. However, his parents did end up getting divorced. Some years after that, he began living with Dr Finch and his own dysfunctional family. Apparently, Dr Finch opened up his home to his patients and that included a paedophile who became Augusten’s lover, a woman with severe obsessive-compulsive disorder and of course, Augusten. Dr Finch’s household is quite different from Augusten’s own volatile one where there still were rules and regulations. In Dr Finch’s house, once a person reached the age of 13, they were free to do as they pleased. Hence, if it meant dating an adult, it was fine. If a child didn’t want to go to school, that too was fine. If Dr Finch wanted to sleep around with other ‘wives’, that too was acceptable.

Running with Scissors is a witty look into what could be perceived as being a horrible chlidhood. Yet, Burroughs looks at it through dark humour and not self-pity as some memoirs do. He doesn’t look at himself as a victim but looks at his life through curious lenses. Just as an outsider would. However, at the same time, you can see just how messed up everyone is. He does seem to realise at one point that despite all the freedom in Dr Finch’s house, there can be something as too much freedom. It seems to reach a point where no one cares. He takes us through his trouble with school, his sexual escapades, understanding his sexual orientation, his relationship with the paedophile, his trysts with drugs and alcohol and of course, dealing with a parent with mental health problems.

He has changed the names of the characters in the book and I think that’s understandable given that they are all so messed up. It probably wouldn’t be fair to them especially if they have started families of their own to be known in such a manner. Dr Finch is a weird character and I was very surprised that he wasn’t monitored by the medical association as he was quite dodgy in terms of his practice. While Augusten did have his ups and downs, I think the main thing he seems to say is that he is still managing. Despite his messed up childhood, he can manage. He’s not perfect. But he is living a decent reasonable life.

If you do read it, be prepared to be shocked. I give this book a rating of 3.

Until next time,

Cheers!!!

Saving Max

‘Saving Max’ is Antoinette van Heugten’s first book. It focuses on Danielle Parkman, a single mother and lawyer from New York and her son Max, a 16 year old with high functioning autism. As Max’s behaviours and moods get harder for Danielle and Max’s therapist to manage, it is recommended that he be admitted to Maitland Psychiatric Asylum in Iowa. One of the best inpatient facilities in the country. Once there, Danielle befriends another mother Marianne Morrison whose son Jonas has also just been admitted as he is profoundly autistic. Once admitted, Max’s behaviour gets increasingly violent and the staff diagnose him with schizoaffective disorder. A diagnosis that Danielle refuses to accept. She wants a second opinion. But before anything can be done, Max is accused of murdering Jonas. And given that Danielle and he are both found at the crime scene with the murder weapon by a nurse doesn’t help the cause.

Danielle is convinced that Max is not a murderer. But she has to convince Max’s lawyer Tony Sevillas and the private investigator Doaks of the same. And it’s hard to do it when she herself is released on bail and due to stand trial for her role.

Did Max murder Jonas in a fit of psychotic rage?

Why did his behaviours escalate at the facility?

Who is the shadow that Danielle thinks she saw leaving the crime scene?

Are any of the doctors responsible for Max’s behaviours?

How far would Danielle go to save her son?

To know all these answers, you have to of course read the book.

It’s a good suspense novel and has all the right ingredients to keep you interested. However, there are certain things that Danielle does to try and save her son which seem a bit too far-fetched in my opinion. A few things are also quite questionable including things like security at the inpatient facility and the way it all seems like a set up from the 70s. The court scene is quite interesting but then again, I’ve always found those interesting (thanks to John Grisham!) And while you find out whodunit about three-quarters into the book, there are other questions that remain unanswered. All in all, it’s a decent thriller if you are not looking for high quality literature. I give it a 3.

Until next time,

Cheers!

The Bell Jar

The Bell Jar is a work of fiction and the first and only novel written by Sylvia Plath. It is set in America in the 1950s and is about Esther Greenwood, a young woman who wins an internship at a New York fashion magazine. Esther is elated about this initially as she dreams of becoming a writer. However, she also notices a kind of apathy towards her day-to-day life. Eventually, following a setback where she does not get into community college for writing, Esther’s depression is triggered and she spirals drastically.

We follow Esther’s journey through this depression where she has sleepless nights, has no appetite, avoids social contact as much as she can, is paranoid about everyone’s motives, doubts her own abilities, thinks she will never amount to anything and attempts suicide. She is admitted into an asylum (as it was known back in the day) and administered electroconvulsive therapy (as was the main therapeutic approach for depression back then). Through all this, she struggles to make sense of how hard it is for a woman in a man’s world and why men get to do certain things but women cannot. And most importantly to her, struggling to be taken seriously in a society where women’s aspirations and dreams are not given much importance.

This book by Sylvia Plath was first published under a pseudonym only weeks before her own suicide. There are theories that The Bell Jar is actually a semi-autobiographical work given that Plath herself suffered from depression and ultimately ended her own life at the age of 30 by sticking her head in the oven and dying of carbon monoxide poisoning.

For me, given that I knew Plath’s history and that the book was based on her own life in some ways made it a lot more interesting. The description of Esther’s mental health is so accurate one has to be a psychologist or psychiatrist or actually dealing with the same problem to be able to write about it in the manner that Plath has. You can literally feel Esther’s low mood and flatness oozing through the pages. You can see her hopelessness even though rationally you understand that it’s not the end of the world for her. You can see how she convinces herself why she must end her life. And you feel sorry for her. You want her to get better. You want her to be able to get out of the asylum and achieve her goals and dreams. The writing style can be a bit difficult to get in that it almost seems like free-writing in some instances and you get the sense the story moves on depending on the author’s mood. Having said that, it’s still a pretty easy read and kept me hooked to the end.

I give it 4 stars but I will warn you there is a feeling of emptiness associated with the book. Possibly due to the extensive insight into a person’s depression.

Until next time,

Cheers!!!