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: The Blood On My Hands – Shannon O’Leary

The Blood On My Hands

The Blood On My Hands

Shannon O’Leary

Createspace Independent Publishing Platform

ISBN: 9781519695871

 

Description:

Set in 1960s and ’70s Australia, “The Blood on My Hands” is the dramatic tale of Shannon O’Leary’s childhood years. O’Leary grew up under the shadow of horrific domestic violence, sexual and physical abuse, and serial murder. Her story is one of courageous resilience in the face of unimaginable horrors.

 

The responses of those whom O’Leary and her immediate family reach out to for help are almost as disturbing as the crimes of her violent father. Relatives are afraid to bring disgrace to the family’s good name, nuns condemn the child’s objections as disobedience and noncompliance, and laws at the time prevent the police from interfering unless someone is killed.

 

“The Blood on My Hands” is a heartbreaking-yet riveting-narrative of a childhood spent in pain and terror, betrayed by the people who are supposed to provide safety and understanding, and the strength and courage it takes, not just to survive and escape, but to flourish and thrive.

 

My View:

A particularly horrific and grim story of ongoing domestic violence and psychosis that is not addressed in the perpetrator’s lifetime – this is a uncomfortable book to read  –  imagine what it must have been like to endure? And endure Shannon O’Leary and her family did – the depravity here is unbelievable – if the author hadn’t qualified the read with “autobiography” you would think this was macabre crime fiction.

To enjoy or not to enjoy? No I can’t say I enjoyed this read – the wounds, physical and psychological were open, raw and bleed onto the pages – I could not enjoy. Compelling – yes. An incredible story of courage and survival – yes.  Can we learn from the mistakes made here? I think this should be read by all in the agencies working in the field of domestic violence and community health; more education and resources are needed in these areas.

 

Shannon O’Leary – you must be one amazingly strong woman.  Whenever I think life is tough for me, I will recall what you have endured.

 

 

Post Script: Beside Myself – Ann Morgan

Beside Myself

Beside Myself

Ann Morgan

Bloomsbury Publishing Australia

Bloomsbury

ISBN: 9781408870303

 

Description:

Beside Myself is a literary thriller about identical twins, Ellie and Helen, who swap places aged six. At first it is just a game, but then Ellie refuses to swap back. Forced into her new identity, Helen develops a host of behavioural problems, delinquency and chronic instability. With their lives diverging sharply, one twin headed for stardom and the other locked in a spiral of addiction and mental illness, how will the deception ever be uncovered? Exploring questions of identity, selfhood, and how other people’s expectations affect human behaviour, this novel is as gripping as it is psychologically complex.

 

 

My View:

Powerful! Intense! Confronting! This book has it all.

 

This book was a very difficult read- I read the first fifty pages or so and was in a dilemma – to continue or not? I found these first pages strangely horrific – the voice of the little girl, Helen, who constantly seeks to “teach her a lesson” (her being her twin sister Ellie), Helen’s voice is so nasty and malevolent I considered not reading any further. (And then there was the underlying hint of potential sexual abuse from a friend’s older brother, another sinister voice/character). I really was in two minds as to carry on or not.

 

Curiosity and a few days break from the book and I started reading again with an intensity that had me picking up this book every opportunity I could make. What a powerhouse of emotions and psychological twists this was! A brilliant study of identity, influences, how expectations effect children’s (and adults I presume too) personality, mental health, achievements and general wellbeing.

 

Mental health issues, suicide, self-harm, suicide are themes that are laid bare for all to consider. And the big one – the damage that is done when we do not believe a child – when they share they are being bullied or abused – in all forms of abuse. The most damage we can do is not believe or take seriously.

 

WOW! Just WOW! I am exhausted! This book is complex and intense and illuminating and surprisingly optimistic. I am so pleased I decided to continue on reading this book. Everyone should read this book – the world might be a better place if it pricks our conscience and makes us look at the person next to us with a little more compassion.

 

A fantastic debut novel!

 

 

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.