“It occurred to me that he might be less neurotic than I was. That he might know himself decently well.”
My thoughts regarding this book are so chaotic that I’m not even sure how to structure this review. When the link to the 2017 Pulitzer Prize winners scrolled through my Twitter feed, I clicked and immediately recognized the title as a book someone had previously recommended to me. I now have mixed feelings about that recommendation.
On the good side — what an incredible novel! Absorbing and intricate, the word choice and story structure are impeccably crafted. The pacing of the novel is like a roller coaster ride, with the first build-up nice and slow but in an enjoy the view way before the author hits you with the real twists and turns. The journey of every character is believable and, I feel, relatable. So well written. So well told.
But here’s why my thoughts regarding this book are so chaotic — and this is a huge issue for me — mental illness.
Depression? Disturbing. Okay. Tough topic. Could be marginalized. Might make for an interesting topic of discussion as far as book clubs and literary reviews go.
No. No. No. No. No. …and here I’m shaking my head and pursing my lips and I have to say, this book tackles what feels like the end-all of all mental illness conditions. I mean, like, no way do I think a person could pick up this novel, read it, comprehend it, and walk away unchanged.
The amount of talent this author portrays in his ability to write from multiple points of view stemming from events occurring around one family is beyond remarkable. Many phenomenal actors play one single character at a time, leading the audience through a believable and emotional journey. Haslett dons five separate guises, all equally intense, but with varying degrees of distress given their point of view.
This book delves into the main issue of mental health being the result of many events, perhaps escalating over time, and including multiple factors such as genetics and environment, as well
as lifestyle choices. Each person may face the same standard situation, but because of how they’ve behaved or reacted in the past, the experience will be different for everyone involved. What might not overwhelm someone might have someone else more susceptible to shutting down, and the way Haslett’s characters reacted had me highlighting so many phrases from his novel.
I recommend this book for everyone with a heartbeat. Read it. Learn from it, even if you don’t know someone with mental illness. Use it as your barometer for your own positive life or your personal reminder that you’re in a good place or a stepping-stone to get back on track, or… just take my recommendation and read it.
For me, it was messy and it hurt, because at some point, during some time in my life, I have felt like I’ve been someone from this family, and that’s what really captured my astonishment surrounding this book. Mental illness is a hard subject to tackle, and many people have mood swings or bad days, but this book shows the helplessness from all sides, and of even greater significance, it shows the tremendous amount of energy it takes to be the person struggling and to be the people taking care of the person struggling.
As always, thanks for your time!
New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Marisa Cleveland loves to laugh, hates to cry, and does both often. She has a master’s degree from George Mason University and joined The Seymour Agency after she ended an eight year career teaching students language arts, grades 6-12. Previous to teaching, she worked as an assistant director for a graduate school in Washington, D.C., before settling in Southwest Florida over a decade ago. As a former gymnast, cheerleader, and dancer, she understands the importance of balance, and she encourages everyone to stay flexible. Cleveland is a Leadership Marco 2015 alum, and she loves connecting with other readers through social media. Though she’s a painfully private introvert, she can be reached through her website: www.marisacleveland.com or follow her journey on Twitter: @marisacleveland.