Tom Brackett has not had the perfect childhood. His mother began acting strangely after the birth of his sister Beverly and his Dad is distant, although not uncaring. One day he is whisked away from his parents without warning or explanation and is sent to live with his grandmother. Eventually we learn that his mother has a serious mental illness and his father is alcohol addicted.
Now Tom has created the perfect world for himself, despite all odds; he has a good job, a supportive wife, two kids, a mini-van, and even a golden retriever. But then, one day, something overcomes him to commit a sudden and terrifying act of violence that changes everything.
This is a compassionate look at the life and mind of someone trying hard to control his own life while struggling with mental illness. It is beautifully rendered and unflinching. Mental illness is handled much better now-a-days than say 50 years ago, but still needs more honest exposure, understanding, and open conversation. This book delivers a glimpse into a personal journey (albeit fictional) that is brutal, but not without hope. In what is actually more of an extended short story, Colford provides one view into the complexities of mental health, and it is just that. He doesn’t give any advice or definitive answers or happy endings, and for that I applaud him.
In researching this Canadian author, on his blog, I ran across his idea of what a good read should look like, and I wholeheartedly agree:
“…an engaging story told with verve and imagination and a sensitivity to language. I want to be pulled into the lives of characters I care about. I want to turn the pages because I have to find out what happens next. But I don’t want to be comforted or coddled. I want to be surprised, maybe even shocked, and definitely thrown off balance. If the writer can challenge me by shattering my expectations while also bringing the story to a satisfying conclusion, so much the better.”