Thursday, December 6, 2018
Book Review: 'Twenty-Four Shadows' by Tanya J. Peterson
Tanya J Peterson comes to her writing gifts both as one who has experienced mental health issues with a bipolar I disorder and as an educator and a counselor who is Nationally Certified and has devoted her life to aiding homeless, runaway adolescents and patients with mental health malfunctions, both in one-on-one situations and as a speaker and mental health writer. Where she excels is in her ability to place on the written page the processes of thought disruption as viewed and spoken by the afflicted ones while at the same time offering insights into the techniques of mental health workers who assist their patients in returning to a life that once again is focused. Her award winning books include LOSING ELIZABETH, LEAVE OF ABSENCE, MY LIFE IN A NUTSHELL and now TWENTY-FOUR SHADOWS.
Having read all of Tanya’s superbly sensitive books it is with great pleasure to enter her latest book with the knowledge of her talent and yet to be pleasantly surprised that her work has grown even stronger with this latest novel. Her ability to explore the interstices of mental disorders without creating a dry clinical lecture or, at the other extreme, refusing to make the characters she paints hopeless victims is quite unmatched by other contemporary authors. In this novel she presents the dissociative identity disorder as an integral aspect of her character while at the same time allowing us to enter the perceptual dysfunction that makes her character indelible.
Tanya provides a solid synopsis of the story – ‘The story takes us inside the anguished mind of Isaac Bittman - an average family man whose mysterious and progressively violent mood swings, many of which he cannot remember, begin to unravel the lives of those closest to him. After a series of bizarre encounters, including losing his job and waking up half-dead in the wilds of Idaho, he begins treatment at a revolutionary mental health facility, where the childhood trauma he's repressed for decades leads to revelations that his personality has splintered into twenty-four shadows, or "alters" as the novel intricately weaves together Isaac's internal angst and his wife and best friend's struggles to retain both a private and public semblance of normalcy.
Few writers have been able to express so sensitively the variations of thought processes that assault patients who are suffering from degrees of mental illness. Peterson creates a solid novel here but she also opens doors of understanding so rarely provided for the general public. Highly recommended. Grady Harp, December 16
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