I would have to say that this book shattered any expectations I had for it. It is an excellent read, as well as being beautifully written. The story concerns Thomas, an American man living in New York city, is devastated by the death of his very young son and has barricaded himself in his room for three years. His wife, Silke, is desperate and seeks out the only help she can find to get Thomas out of his room. The help comes in the form of a small, young Japanese woman called Megumi. She has the talent for working with Hikikomori, the Japanese word for what Thomas has done – shut himself away from society altogether. Megumi, who is tasked with getting him out of this situation is known as a “rental sister”.
As she works her way toward getting Thomas to come out of his room, she first must find her way into his room to really come to know him and why he has remained locked away. The story is excellently set up and executed as the three characters form a sort of triangulation with their most precious, unspoken feelings, schemes, and inevitable resolutions.
Highly recommended for anyone who enjoys great contemporary fiction from a new and upcoming voice. I look forward to reading Jeff Backhaus novels for a long time to come.
Brain On Fire by Susannah Cahalan
As those of you that actually read my humble blog (I thank all 6 of you) should know, I decreed to no longer review books in the standard way. I was prompted to this line of thinking by a horrendous post / article about bloggers who call themselves ‘Book Reviewers’ and then charge people for the privilege of receiving one of their ‘coveted’ reviews. If you missed it or need reminding, I direct you to a great fellow writer and blogger Jo Eberhart, and her article about it from The Happy Logophile. I was so moved and, well, incensed, about what was going on, that I left a lengthy comment about it on the post. You’ll have to scroll down quite a way to find it if you’re interested, as Jo received over 350 comments on her post!! So there’s my background on why I’ve decided to stop ‘reviewing’ books per se, and to simply talk about the best ones that I’ve come across lately, and what I liked the most about them. I think it will turn The Hurley Edition into more of a conversational environment, rather than me just rambling on to myself, or so it would seem most of the time!! Today I’ve got a great book to talk about. It’s a non-fiction book that I came across while surfing the Kobo ebook site. Brain On Fire is the true story of Susannah Cahalan, a cub reporter for the New York Post who was just starting out on what was shaping up to be a great career in journalism. Then the story starts with her waking up one day in the hospital, strapped down to a hospital bed, with a FLIGHT RISK wrist band on her right wrist. She had been there for a month with absolutely no memory of how or why she ended up there. It’s not like she was in a coma…not exactly, although she did spend some time in a near comatose state, she was up to all kinds of ‘crazy’ behavior, and her family and closest friends had all been there, worried sick about her and whether or not she would ever be the same. Ms. Cahalan’s first hand account of this harrowing and until only very recently, unknown disease is absolutely riveting. The disease, now known as anti-NMDA – receptor encephalitis, is a disease where essentially the body’s antibodies attack the brain. That is as simple as I can put it, as it is quite involved when you read about it, however I didn’t feel like it was over my head, as Ms. Cahalan makes sure to explain it in regular terms that you can understand. Do make sure that you read it from the beginning though to stay up with the explanation of the disease and as her team of doctors go through the process of first figuring out what it is that has ‘possessed’ her, and then how to go about getting her better, or at least saving what they can of her mind in hopes that she can fully recover as a functioning member of society.
The beauty and sensitivity with which Ms. Cahalan relays her story is truly exceptional. This is a highly recommended book that will have you thinking about what is real and what is merely perceived as reality by your brain. Can you honestly say that everything you experience on a daily basis, and everything you have ever experienced for that matter, has really happened in the way you thought it did, or that it happened at all?
This book will have you thinking about that…for many a long, sleepless night.
I will be starting my own version of a book review, or perhaps a ‘non’ book review called The Hurley Edition Book Report. Instead of presuming to review a book, believing that I know best or better than anyone else, especially the author, I’d rather write my own thoughts and impressions of a book, promoting it and the author along the way. After all, it’s a small world and business we are in and we should be encouraging each other, not tearing each other down, which I have seen in many “book review blogs”. So I thought a new approach would be in order and that approach is —- a THE Report. (The Hurley Edition Report) So keep on the lookout for those, as they are a new concept and welcome addition to The Hurley Edition that will be launching soon with a book close to my heart, and that’s all I’ll say for now!! Soon, everyone will be saying, “Have you been reviewed by The Globe & Mail?”, “Not yet, but I’ve been given a THE Report on The Hurley Edition!!” says the beaming author! That’s my hope, anyway.
I was always told, “If you don’t have anything nice to say, then don’t say anything at all!” This way, I don’t promise to write a review for every book or ARC that I receive, but I CAN promise to write a THE Report on books that strike me as great, interesting, amazing, as well as needing that all important exposure that we so desperately need as beginning writers, or even as published writers; especially here in Canada. So it is in the spirit of mutual beneficial involvement that I start this endeavour. I would also encourage as many fellow bloggers, authors, both, and even the mainstream media to create their own versions of THE Reports. Book reports on what was good or great about the book that you’ve read. Look for the amazing things in a book that you read instead of criticisms to put others down, or make them look bad in the harsh public light of the mainstream media, perhaps costing authors a chance at nominations for awards or agents or grants. All of these are incredibly important to anyone trying to “get the voices out of their heads” and onto the page. In the end, we all benefit from better supported arts. We get better books and artists who just may be able….maybe…to live above the poverty line for the first time in our country’s history.
As always, you know how to reply to or email me with your own thoughts. Let them loose, I say!