Despair and salvation mix to powerful effect in Jacoby’s debut novel that follows a young man’s confrontation with suicide.
In 1982, 19-year-old Richard Issych’s life alternates between fear and despair. As seen in flashbacks, his life is marked by distance and alienation: Unable to connect to his family and lacking focus in work and college, he steadily works up the nerve to kill himself, culminating in a massive overdose of Quaaludes that lands him in a mental hospital outside Cleveland. As he slowly recovers from his overdose and adjusts to a regimen of seemingly ineffectual therapy and powerful antidepressants, he discovers a brotherhood of sorts among his fellow patients. However, not all his fellow patients are welcoming; some are dangerous in ways Richard can’t understand, and as he recovers, he finds that threats can take unexpected forms. With strong, assured writing, Jacoby confidently duplicates the frazzled, nonlinear mindset of someone impaired by medication and a shifting grasp on “sanity,” making clear the shattered nature of Richard’s perspective, which becomes a functioning part of the narrative rather than a showy literary device. While the doctors’ and nurses’ behaviors are presented entirely from Richard’s point of view, Jacoby also manages to suggest their depth and purpose through Richard’s sharpening perception, allowing the reader’s perspective to change without drawing attention to mechanics. More impressively, Jacoby presents the female characters through Richard’s limited viewpoint while achieving characterizations beyond what the troubled man is capable of perceiving, at least at his psychological nadir.
A confident, strongly voiced portrait of despair and the flickering light at the end of the tunnel.