In Muro’s debut novel, a spiritual young man comes of age in unusual circumstances.
The story begins with Eddie looking back on his youth living on the grounds of a Chicago insane asylum in the 1960s. Early on, it’s clear that the teenage Eddie is spiritually gifted. Despite where he lives, where his mother works as a doctor, he forms a Bible study group with a friend since “[a] need to read scriptures burned within Eddie.” He also speaks of a “friend” within himself who helps guide him through life. His relationship with God, and with the inmates, drives the narrative. Muro creates a strange world, as readers would expect a mental hospital to be, but it’s also as real as everyday life. The patients’ back stories illustrate the corruption and injustice that drove the mental health system at the time. Some inmates are foster children with nowhere else to go, and others are political dissidents shut away on spurious charges. Muro’s novel is based largely on his own experiences growing up in an asylum, where his father worked. It’s not for the faint of heart; almost as soon as it opens, for example, Eddie witnesses a priest molesting his younger sister. Readers go on to learn that Eddie’s love interest, Patricia, was sexually abused by her father, and many other patients in the asylum have similarly gruesome pasts. However, Muro doesn’t gratuitously describe these horrors. Instead, in well-paced, readable prose, he shows how these stories contributed to Eddie’s spiritual development. In the end, Eddie manages to bring light to the afflicted patients and, ultimately, to himself, even in the midst of tragedy. Muro develops clear themes over the course of the novel, showing Eddie’s relationship to the faith in which he was raised and to the faith he later finds. As a result, the book will likely appeal to habitual readers of inspirational works.
A challenging but ultimately uplifting novel.