Top positive review
Family Saga Mired in Despair
Reviewed in the United States on October 26, 2017
Haslett has crafted a haunting, beautifully-rendered novel about how generational mental illness in a family can ravage a devastating and far-reaching path of destruction through the lives of the afflicted and the healthy. All are hyper-vigilant, wary and self-contained, each scrambling to cope, with varying degrees of success, while shoring up those who are in the downward spiral. The book could easily be a memoir, simply because the characters are that finely-nuanced and expertly depicted. It is fiction at its best, as each character is so starkly vivid and fully wrought. Each musing and frailty rings true. Anxiety and depression are so well-articulated that the reader can literally feel the cloaking, foreboding despair. Eldest sibling, Michael, is trapped in a repetitive loop of inertia and frantic longing, perpetually unable to envision or create a promising future. He clings to an obsession with music, academia and ill-fated relationships, but cannot parlay his considerable intelligence into steady employment or sustainability. Therapy and medications provide a brief respite, but with diminishing results. All of the family members are grappling, struggling and trudging forward as crisis and loss reverberate among this fragile cluster of relatives. His mother and siblings attempt to help Michael, but they too, are wrestling with the pall cast by the patriarch’s legacy. There are bright spots, thankfully, and some wry humor, but the tone is predominantly bleak. This is a serious book that dares to take the reader down the rabbit hole to reveal the realities of depression and anxiety. One would be hard-pressed to find a more accurate description of this particular stubborn darkness and the nearly-constant unease and agitation. The audience for this book may be clinicians who wish to immerse themselves in a realistic depiction of their clent’s painful personal experiences or merely those who appreciate a well-written story. It will most profoundly resonate with anyone familiar with mental illness in all its guises. Many will strongly identify with Michael as he stumbles, and ache when he fails. This is a good book. Frustrating, pensive and deeply worthwhile, but dark. Upon finishing it, one feels somewhat compelled to shake it loose from the mind and go in search of sunlight.