Thursday, January 29, 2009

Love In the Asylum by Lisa Carey : a review

This is a month of "seconds" for me. I read my second Sherman Alexie book, my second Elizabeth McCracken (and third!), and my second Lisa Carey. I don't know if it means anything, but it is a strange coincidence. Now I want to read everything Lisa Carey has written, because both of her books that I've read so far have been excellent.

Love In the Asylum is kind of what it sounds like. Two patients in a mental hospital, one mentally ill and one a drug addict, fall in love. Of course it is much more than that, as you'd expect from two people who have such serious life issues. I especially liked the drug addict, Oscar, and I thought Carey did a great job of capturing the awkwardness and miscommunication of his and Alba's budding relationship.

The hospital itself has a history too, which we learn about from the book within the book, a series of letters our heroine, Alba, finds written in the spare pages at the backs of books in the hospital library. A former patient wrote the letters to her son decades ago, explaining to him that the sickness for which she was committed was actually a special healing power well-known in the Native American tribe she was originally from. The story-within-a-story format is always a little risky, and I had problems enjoying certain aspects of the inner one, but ultimately the two stories came together very nicely.

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