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THE FRAGILITY OF LIGHT by Heather S. Lonczak


A Young Woman’s Descent Into Madness and Fight for Recovery

by Heather S. Lonczak

Pub Date: March 2nd, 2024
ISBN: 9798989648108
Publisher: Self

In this novel, a young woman enjoys a perfect life—a wonderful husband, an intriguing job, a new home—but things threaten to fall apart after she starts to suffer psychotic episodes.

Everything’s looking up for Joshua Fitzpatrick and Sylvia “Sunny” Zielinski. The two, who hit it off in college, get married the summer after graduation. They’re absolutely smitten, whispering loving thoughts into each other’s ears on the day of their wedding, ready to build a new life together. But the lively wedding ends in disaster when, after a sudden flight of rage, Sunny throws cake at the crowd and flees the party. The next day, her new husband swiftly forgives her wedding-night tantrum, optimistically looking to the great things ahead: Sunny’s new job in publishing, a pet cat, and a home in San Diego. But when Sunny’s grandparents, both Holocaust survivors, succumb to a stroke and old age, she falls into a grief-stricken depression that ends in a sudden break with reality. Sunny believes that she’s being chased by the Gestapo and thinks her boss is a secret Nazi. Lonczak breaks the novel up into nonlinear chapters—narrated by Sunny, her father (Peter), and Joshua—in order to flesh out the protagonist’s backstory. Early on, Joshua lovingly describes Sunny: “She was like a vibrant sunrise peeking through a cloudy sky. She was warmth, light, comfort, and dazzling beauty.” The tale reveals a history of intergenerational family trauma, with both Sunny’s mom and maternal grandmother experiencing similar psychotic episodes. The book is not an easy read. At several points, Sunny makes perilous choices, starving herself and going on the run. She even seems to endanger her half siblings. But the story delivers a sharply written and startling account of a woman and a family put to the test by mental illness—and how they learn to cope and become resilient. The novel’s one flaw involves its pacing: Much of the first 50 pages deals with the rather mundane lead-up to Sunny and Joshua’s wedding, which could have been woven into the tale as flashbacks after the ominous wedding night. But once the harrowing book picks up speed, readers will find it impossible to put down.

A searing portrait of mental illness and a family trying to stay together.