Monday, September 13, 2010

Memoirs From The Asylum

I recently loaned my copy of this book to a friend who is attending nursing school. She was profoundly moved by the characters and depth of the story, in turn, she shared the title with her psych professor. Memoirs from the Asylum has now been brought forward as recommended reading for psychology students at her University.

Congratulations Kenneth Weene, for your contribution in shaping the care givers of the future!

Book Title: Memoirs from the Asylum
Author: Kenneth Weene
ISBN: 978-0-9844219-5-4
Publisher: All Things that Matter Press, 2010
Link to purchase: Memoirs From The Asylum
Reviewer Byline: Vonnie Faroqui for WITS

Memoirs from the Asylum author Kenneth Weene has, with many twists and phobic turns, succeeded in writing a moving and fascinating exploration of the inner workings of the insane mind. Memoirs is set within the confines of a mental health institution and weaves its way through the lives and memories of the asylum’s patients, narrated from the internal perspective of two patients and their psychiatrist. The vision of life depicted within and around these three main characters makes a case for a larger societal madness, as the author explores the bureaucracy surrounding and encapsulating the insane, and their caregivers. As uncomfortable as some aspects of the book may be, these same passages hold illuminating power.

Well crafted, Memoirs from the Asylum has a developed plot line and believable story progression. The best aspect of the book is how the author has written from the perspective or inner thoughts of the characters. This is done with such realism, understanding, and truth that it is easy to relate to and understand the patient’s phobias, frustrations, joys, and triumphs. It is obvious that the author is writing from a deeper understanding of human motivation and psychosis. His treatment of his characters is compassionate, and without judgment, allowing the reader to formulate their own opinions and confront their own preconceptions and prejudices. Unlike so many other novels, Weene’s writing is not preachy or educational in tone, using well developed characters and originality that make for compelling reading.

At times the book is disturbing as it addresses and reveals many destructive societal attitudes and inhumanities. The author has skillfully lifted the veil of willful disinterest surrounding the mentally ill and shone a spot light on the role played by the greater culture in perpetuating and growing madness.
Full of memorable characters that are as tragic as they are comedic, this book proves itself in the great tradition of writing. Disturbingly honest and often graphic in nature, Memoirs from the Asylum is an entertaining and enlightening read for adults.

Monday, September 6, 2010

West to the Sun

This week our review focuses on childrens' fiction with a book about the pioneer experience on the Oregon Trail.

Book Title: West to the Sun
Author: Tom G. Good
ISBN: 978-1-4327-5162-3
Publisher: Outskirts Press Inc. 2010
Link to purchase:
Reviewer: Vonnie Faroqui for WITS

In West to the Sun, author Tom G. Good weaves a story of the Oregon Trail, and the pioneer experience of Jeremiah Symons, an 11-year-old boy and his family. Good skillfully narrates the world and history surrounding the characters in a way that captures the readers imagination and carries the journey into visions and vistas outside of the modern experience. In his writing, the author successfully relates the hazards and dangers faced by our pioneer forefathers, exploring concerns, customs, needs, and desires that lay buried in our nation’s past and yet which have so deeply influenced the modern psyche. Good unearths and presents with wonder, surprise and no little amount of awe a fictional and yet historically accurate telling of the journey west for the enrichment of future generations.

Having myself experienced, at the age of nine, being uprooted from my home in modern day America and moved to the wilderness of Northern Canada, I could relate to the daily urgencies, the depiction of life hardships and ever present dangers related by the author. The story teller does not however, focus on the burning resentments, deep fears and the kinds of spiritual challenges an experience like this engenders in a child or the family dynamic. The main characters remain constant and unchallenged in their love for each other, their faith and in their sense of self. The voice of the narrative is more the voice of a wise father than a youth and so on occasion comes across as being a little too good, but the writing is skillful and the history sound. The real story in West to the Sun is that of the Oregon Trail itself, with the characters of Jeremiah and his family being a lens to look through and means of delivery.

This book is an excellent teaching tool for parents and teachers wanting to share with children the history and experiences lived by the courageous men and women of frontier America. With excellent written delivery of the preparation for the journey itself, accurate skillful portrayal of the social interactions between travelers and wagon train life, the difficulties faced and chance encounters along the way, this book offers valuable perspective and insight. Few children today have a comparative experience through which they can empathize or intuit understanding for the hardships experienced, wonders beheld and the demands such a journey would make on early pioneers. Thankfully, we have Tom G. Good’s skillful pen and talented imagination to breathe life into the telling.