Post Script: In Two Minds – Gordon Parker

In Two Minds

In Two Minds

A Novel

Professor Gordon Parker

Ventura Press

ISBN: 9781925384192

 

Description:

I can more or less guarantee that you know someone for whom this book will be important and inspiring. There’s a very strong chance that person will be you.Stephen Fry

 

Dr Martin Homer is a GP with a naturally sunny disposition. Honourable, attentive and trusted by all of his patients, Martin has only ever loved one woman – his wife, Sarah.

 

When his mother dies suddenly, Martin’s comfortable life is thrown into complete disarray. After sinking into the black dog of grief and depression, he ascends to new heights in a frenzied, manic high. Now, he’s never felt better!

 

In between riding his new skateboard around the streets at night and self-medicating from his stash at work, the artificially elated and self-entitled Martin crosses paths with Bella, a beautiful and sexual young woman profoundly damaged by trauma of her own.

 

In Two Minds takes you on a quirky, rollicking journey that unveils the complexities of mental illness with wit and warmth. Gordon Parker’s impressive career in psychiatry reveals itself through extremely rich descriptions of depression, bipolar and borderline personality characteristics.

 

My View:

 

This is an excellent portrait of mental illness wrapped in a personal narrative that is highly relatable and so engaging you will not be able to put this book down!

 

Martin’s Early Story (yes that is the chapter heading) was so sad – a child who tries to please everyone, a peacekeeper, a child carrying a burden of guilt…most who read this introduction to Martin’s life will feel compassion, sadness and perhaps a little anger directed at the adults in his life. Some will anticipate that the roads Martin will travel in the future will be potholed with mental health issues, and they will be right.

 

 

Bella’s introduction – such a revelation – her personality is uncanny in its familiarity, I recognise the “Bella” in so many women I have worked with/for – such damaged souls are everywhere! The author does not provide the same amount of personal history and  information about Bella or her early life or the events that shaped her thought processes, we don’t hear Bella’s story or her voice, so much as see her reactions to the world around her and the damage she inflicts on herself and to those close by.  We see Bella via her actions, her behaviours, her reactions, her manipulations… the author has created an excellent device to show how mental illness, (including depression) can affect individuals in different ways.

 

The two protagonists however are equal in the amount of pain they feel.

 

What happens when these two damaged individuals meet is devastating, yet like the drivers on a road compelled to watch the scene of an accident, we are compelled to read on, to watch this crash as it happens; brutal, destructive and bloody.

 

This is an excellent, thought provoking read! The author has created a captivating narrative written with a touch of dark humour and wit that will influence the way you perceive/judge the people around you. Gordon Parker has taken a socially taboo illness, shone a light on it, personalised it and thereby provided opportunities for further discussion.   Well done Gordon Parker.

 

 

PS

 

A question for the author – did you deliberately create one empathetic protagonist (Martin) and one not so for a reason? Perhaps to highlight the many faces of depression/mental illness and the way society responds?

 

Post Script: Little Black Lies- Sharon Bolton

Atmospheric, fantastic word visuals, contemporary issues and a mystery to solve- what a great read!

Cover Little Black Lies

Little Black Lies

Sharon Bolton

Random House UK, Transworld Publishers 

Bantam Press

ISBN: 9780593069202

 

Description:

 

What’s the worst thing your best friend could do to you?

 

Admittedly, it wasn’t murder. A moment’s carelessness, a tragic accident – and two children are dead. Yours.

 

Living in a small island community, you can’t escape the woman who destroyed your life. Each chance encounter is an agonizing reminder of what you’ve lost – your family, your future, your sanity.

 

How long before revenge becomes irresistible?

 

With no reason to go on living, why shouldn’t you turn your darkest thoughts into deeds?

 

So now, what’s the worst thing you can do to your best friend?

 

 

My View:

This was a great read – there is so much packed into this one narrative; it is evocative, the sense of dread and foreboding vibrates of the page. The scenes with the whales (no spoilers here) just so dark and sad and painful – it tears large wounds in your heart. Grief, despair, depression and post-traumatic stress provide the back beat to this black tune. What a powerful story!

 

 Then there is the mystery and disappearance of several young children and a mother’s passion for vengeance. Read and enjoy and maybe like me just be for the reveal you may guess the culprit.

 

Post Script: Where They Found Her – Kimberly McCreight

It’s not you, it’s me 🙂

Where they Found Her

Where They Found Her

Kimberly McCreight

Simon & Schuster Australia

ISBN: 9781471111327

 

Description:

An idyllic suburban town. A devastating discovery. Shocking revelations that will change three lives forever.

At the end of a long winter in well-to-do Ridgedale, New Jersey, the body of a newborn is found in the woods fringing the campus of the town’s prestigious university. No one knows the identity of the baby, what ended her very short life, or how she wound up among the fallen leaves. But among the residents of Ridgedale, there is no shortage of opinions.

When freelance journalist, and recent Ridgedale transplant, Molly Anderson is unexpectedly called upon to cover the disturbing news for the Ridgedale Reader—the town’s local paper—she has good reason to hesitate. A severe depression followed the loss of her own baby, and this assignment could unearth memories she has tried so hard to bury. But the history Molly uncovers is not her own. Her investigation unravels a decades-old trail of dark secrets hiding behind Ridgedale’s white picket fences.

Told from the perspectives of three Ridgedale women, Kimberly McCreight’s taut and profoundly moving novel unwinds the tangled truth behind the tragedy, revealing that these women have far more in common than they could have ever known. That the very worst crimes are committed against those we love. And that—sooner or later—the past catches up to all of us.

 

My View: 

For me this book was a very slow burn, a lot of time is devoted to setting up the scene of Molly’s despair and depression, a little too much time I thought. Then when more elements were added to the narrative I found the multiple point of views and time frames a little confusing – in fact at one point I could not get my head around why a woman, a mother of a teenager was hanging around a high school (I imagined a course for adults to complete their basic education?) but why did she have crush on a teenage boy – further into the story and the blinkers were mercifully pulled away from my eyes – I realised the mother/high school/teenage boy crush plot line were all reflections of the woman’s past…finally it all made sense and from that point on I was riveted.

 

Suddenly the action was flowing, the drama increased and I started to feel empathy for a couple of the main characters. There is a phrase that is repeated in the narrative – a conversation between Molly and her husband that I feel is very powerful and accurate and provides some shining optimism; “Not everything about where your headed Molly, has to be about where you have been.” (p.76). This line of conversation illuminates the potential of change, of growth, speaks to the possibilities life offers and gives hope and is relevant to so many of the characters in this book.

 

This is a book that tackles so many issues that have occurred in the main protagonists past – depression, still birth, dysfunctional families, sexual abuse, drug use, bullying, sexual harassment… it is good to see some of the characters take steps to a more positive future as the mysteries in this novel are resolved.

 

After I finished reading this book and thought about writing my review I felt very conflicted – the prologue is intriguing and heart wrenching but maybe off putting to some readers, (no spoilers here), however the next considerable part of the book slows down and at times the multiple point of views and time jumps were confusing, then transmission becomes clear and I became immersed in the story – what a dilemma, how do I review and rate this book? …. I peaked at what a few other readers have said and discovered mostly I was in the minority – most people loved this book. So Kimberley McCreight – it’s not you, it must be me J I really wish I had liked this more.

 

 

NB This book was provided for review by the publisher.

 

 

Post Script: The Shut Eye – Belinda Bauer

The Shut Eye

The Shut Eye

Belinda Bauer

Random House UK, Transworld Publishers

Bantam Press

ISBN: 9780593072875

 

Description:

 

Bauer’s great gift is her ability to surprise the reader’ Sunday Telegraph

 

Five footprints are the only sign that Daniel Buck was ever here.

 

And now they are all his mother has left.

 

Every day, Anna Buck guards the little prints in the cement. Polishing them to a shine. Keeping them safe. Spiralling towards insanity.

 

When a psychic offers hope, Anna grasps it. Who wouldn’t? Maybe he can tell her what happened to her son…

 

But is this man what he claims to be? Is he a visionary? A shut eye? Or a cruel fake, preying on the vulnerable?

 

Or is he something far, far worse?

 

My View: 

Brilliant.   Amazing.  Incredible.  Delightful.  Haunting.  Evocative.  Engaging.  Surprising.

Have you got the hint? I loved this book! Superb writing, wonderful complex narrative, a hint of dark humour, exceptionally moving characters… psychics, love, death and a mania of blue and circles I could feel and see myself!! This must be one of the most outstanding reads I have come across. The last thing I will say about this read is don’t just take my word for it – read this yourself – YOU MUST READ IT.

 

 

 

Post Script: I Was Here – Gayle Forman

This is a book that should be on the reading lists of every high school and stocked by every public library. It should be read by every book club.

I Was Here

I Was Here

Gayle Foreman

Simon & Schuster

ISBN: 9781471124396

 

Description:

From the bestselling author of If I Stay – this summer’s YA blockbuster film.

 

This characteristically powerful novel follows eighteen-year-old Cody Reynolds in the months following her best friend’s shocking suicide.

 

As Cody numbly searches for answers as to why Meg took her own life, she begins a journey of self-discovery which takes her to a terrifying precipice, and forces her to question not only her relationship with the Meg she thought she knew, but her own understanding of life, love, death and forgiveness.

 

A phenomenally moving story, I Was Here explores the sadly all-too-familiar issue of suicide and self-harm, addressing it in an authentic way with sensitivity and honesty.

 

 

 

My View:

I am a recent convert to the YA genre and it is because of novels like this that I have been convinced to extend my reading habits to embrace this style of powerful narrative. And powerful this is; through embraceable characters on a journey of healing after tragedy we are forced to think about a subject that is largely taboo or hidden in contemporary society – teenage suicide. I Was Here peels away and discards the layers of shame and myth surrounding teenage depression and suicide and opens a door for meaningful discussion – a problem shared is …an opportunity to create or at least move toward positive change. Dealing with depression isn’t easy but there are avenues to explore to assist all those concerned, you just have to take that first step – a simple discussion with someone who can help or who can direct you to help. If this book does no more than open a dialogue about these issues then it has succeeded; that this novel is engaging, well written, intelligent and insightful without being morbid, maudlin or depressing is a credit to the author’s talent. Read it. Just read it.

 

 

Post Script: All The Bright Places – Jennifer Niven

Amor Vincit Omnia

All the Bright Places

All the Bright Places

Jennifer Niven

Penguin

ISBN: 9780141357034

 

 

Description:

Theodore Finch is fascinated by death, and he constantly thinks of ways he might kill himself. But each time, something good, no matter how small, stops him.

 

Violet Markey lives for the future, counting the days until graduation, when she can escape her Indiana town and her aching grief in the wake of her sister’s recent death.

 

When Finch and Violet meet on the ledge of the bell tower at school, it’s unclear who saves whom. And when they pair up on a project to discover the ‘natural wonders’ of their state, both Finch and Violet make more important discoveries: It’s only with Violet that Finch can be himself – a weird, funny, live-out-loud guy who’s not such a freak after all. And it’s only with Finch that Violet can forget to count away the days and start living them. But as Violet’s world grows, Finch’s begins to shrink.

 

My View:

The most moving book you will read this year. You will laugh and you most definitely will cry and you will fall in love.

 

Let me start with a confession – I love Theodore Finch – Finch in amazing – he is all the qualities you want to discover in a new relationship –caring, kind, puts you before him, understanding, considerate, romantic, a little outrageous, smart, intuitive, good looking….and there is so much more. Who cannot but help fall in love with someone who writes you notes like this: “You are all the colours in one, at full brightness.” The parts you don’t want to see or don’t discover until too late are tough but not unrepairable…you think…. amor vincit omnia. You have hope.

 

So whilst this is a story of young love, a beautiful, lyrical all-consuming romantic love, this is so much much more than a love story. The prose is beautifully written; poetic, lyrical, magical and at times hilarious, laugh out loud funny or make your eyes swell with tears sad and your throat constrict. The perspectives presented here about life and about coming to terms with grief, domestic violence, depression and loss – will resonate with most of us at some point in our life. The messages are poignant and pack a punch without sounding like a lesson is being delivered. But lessons you will learn whether you realise it or not.

 

I started reading this a month or so ago, I got caught up in story, in the lives of the two protagonists, Finch and Violet, I could picture them both in my head (Finch in particular – just speaks of Heath Ledger to me) I could see their homes, school, friends, classroom, parents … all clearly and I could feel a train wreck approaching. I put the book down (so unlike me) I didn’t want to know what was over that hill they were fast approaching…I had several ideas none of which played out but had the same end result, devastation. No spoilers here – this is a discussion for a book club…

 

Whilst this is distributed as a tens or YA read there is plenty of substance here to make this a novel for all – for there is something in this that will touch and warm everyone’s’ heart, there is something here we can all learn about and take with us on life’s journey. What more can I say – I still tear up thinking about this. Read it. Discover some beauty in this crazy world.

 

 

 

Post Script: Crazy Love You – Lisa Unger

This book will have you twisted inside out trying to work out what is real and what is not.

Crazy Love You

Lisa Unger

Simon & Schuster (Australia)

Simon & Schuster UK

ISBN: 9781471111488

 

 

Description:

Ian Paine has spent his life running away. He’s drunk too much booze, taken too many reality warping drugs, gotten high too often to numb the painful memories of his horrific childhood. Gorging himself on food until he was unrecognizable, he hid inside himself, and to the world he was just a lonely fat boy. But Ian was lucky; he grew up and managed to escape the haunting pull of his hometown and become a successful comic book artist in New York City.

There has only ever been one constant in Ian’s life: Priss. She is everything he isn’t – powerful, enticing, beautiful. Dangerous. She isn’t afraid to confront the problems that Ian isn’t strong enough to face, but she also loves to feed his addictions for drugs, for sex, for running away. And no one seems to understand the volatile Priss the way Ian does.

But everything begins to change when Ian meets Megan – a kind, good-hearted woman who Ian wants to start a new life with. But Priss won’t let Ian go so easily, not when she’s spent a lifetime by his side. Priss is angry, and when she’s angry, bad things begin to happen…

 

 

My View: 

A great psychological drama with characters that you will empathise with, sympathise with and be very wary of. As you read on and become involved in this drama you will start to doubt who is real …art is reflecting life a little too consistently mirroring chapters in Ian’s graphics books (or is it the other way round?) and this will have your head in a spin. This is a love story with delusions, hauntings, drug dependency and psychosis.

 

This is a fast moving intense and very emotional psychological thriller – Ms Unger is at her best her as she delves into the psyche of her characters and shares with you their very dysfunctional lives that are teetering on the verge of meltdown. At the heart of this narrative are the basic human needs of being loved and wanted and listened too; we are all motivated by love and fear and this book has massive helping of each ingredient.

 

The character Ian Paine (such an appropriate name considering Ian’s lot in life) writes and illustrates graphic novels for a living. I love the way the author uses the script and literal illustrations in Ian’s graphic novel, Fatboy and Priss to provide an alternative voice, an alternative reality in this novel. Trouble is we don’t quite know whose voice it is and its voice becomes more real as Ian’s hold on reality slips.

 

Ms Unger exposes so many social issues in this novel; post natal/partum depression, child abuse, drug dependency, psychosis and addictions of all varieties. It is an eye opening experience reading this book, delving into worlds that blur and constantly redefine themselves. It is hard to know what reality is, which events/voices are the hallucinations and I like that this book plays with the perception of reality. Drug induced psychosis is a very real problem for so many people, especially young people and I am glad this novel highlights this issue.

 

This is a fascinating read and one that I think is enhanced by reading Ms Unger’s short story series based in the town of Hollows where Ian grew up and the dramas started. This is a great psychological thriller from the master of the genre.