Sometimes after some good horror or fantasy novels, it is a bit refreshing to pick up a fiction book that can be based in the realm of reality. This book has a main topic I feel is not written (well) enough in novels, or at least that I have gotten my hands on. That topic being mental illness.
Quick Summary: Alice is pretty much your average college student. Intelligent, hard working, going through her senior year, and dealing with the stresses of adult life. However, when the stress becomes too much after a recent breakup with a long time boyfriend, Alice begins to lose grip on reality. It’s not her fault entirely however, but mostly due to a genetic disposition she has that is pushed under the rug by family and never mentioned. Alice slowly begins to “fall down the rabbit hole” as her schizophrenia begins to take hold of her mind and everyday life.
Told from Alice’s point of view we earn about her family life, which was on the oppressive side, how her family has dealt with this illness with a different member of the family (not well), how some mental illness hospitals treat patients with this illness, and her own travels within her mind as this mental difference takes over. It is frightening, inspiring, sad, and thought provoking. The stories and locations told in this story are obviously only one point of view and some embellishments to make it an interesting story. However, many of the ways people view and treat others in Alice’s situation are quite common.
The characters are interesting with their own back stories and problem,s, Alice’s ups & downs as she deals with her own mind fall anywhere between funny and heartbreaking, and I feel it ties a lot of ends together nicely as you go through the story. It is an interesting look to see through a characters eyes who is going through Schizophrenia from beginning to “end” instead of an outsider dealing with someone who is in the throws of it already. You feel her heartbreak at the way her family treats her illness, the anger at the institution, and thoughtfulness as to how people on the street view and treat her (homeless and not alike). It’s a tumble of ups and downs, medication and none, and a young woman trying to find herself when her mind is not her own anymore.
Her mother comes from a religious background, was in what appears to be an oppressive marriage, and had a family member of her own with the same illness. Though you feel some anger towards her, I couldn’t help but also feel sympathy. She has no idea what to do, and is doing what she honestly thinks is best for her daughter. She is battling with her own demons and emotions, and has no idea how to handle Alice’s.
The other characters in the story I feel are well fleshed out, from the two homeless young men who help her on the street, to the woman who opens her heart and home to Alice when she has no where to go. I felt as though these could be real people in a real situation, and also shows the better side of humanity.
If you have interests in stories of mental illness or strong female leads in books, I would suggest picking this one up. It’ll make you laugh, possible get a little misty-eyed, and definitely make you think.
As a side note: It has plenty of Wonderland references, which this blogger just loves.