Thursday, August 30, 2012

Review: An Age of Madness by David Maine

Regina Moss is an emotionally distant mother whose daughter Anna is struggling in her freshman year at college. What makes Regina's inability to meaningfully talk to and connect with her daughter so surprising is that Regina is also a psychiatrist. She not only works in a psychiatric hospital but she also spends hours listening to her private clients as they try to work through the things that are weighing on them and to face reality, something Regina seems incapable of doing herself.

At first glance, Regina is a completely trustworthy narrator who is still grieving the tragedy in her past. She and her daughter have a difficult relationship. She is immersed in her professional life almost completely and developing an interest in one of the new, young techs on her ward. But as facts about Regina's life come to light, she has to expand or alter her backstory, peeling back the sanitized and imagined past layer by layer to reveal the truth that still haunts her and drives her present no matter how deeply she's tried to bury it in her subconscious.

This tale of a manipulated truth, slowly revealed only through necessity, showcases a classic unreliable narrator. Separated into three sections: Lunacy, Hysteria, and Bedlam, each section is told in short numbered passages which serve to make each bit feel self-contained although they clearly build on one another. Everything about the book, Regina's life, the revealing truths, her relationship with Anna, and her feelings about everyone in her life past and present, grows incrementally. And as the shifting sands of Regina's story cover over the previous layer, the reader can't help but be caught up in wanting to see past the obfuscation to the uncontestably true core, to finally know the whole story. A fascinating look at the many ways in which we compensate for guilt and grief and living after a major loss and how we lie to ourselves and others, this was a surprisingly riveting novel.

Thanks to the publisher for sending me a copy of the book for review.


  1. I have a self-destructive weakness for stories about dysfunctional families and relationships :-P, and based on your review, I think I'd love this book. I'm adding it to my wishlist.

  2. I have to get this.

    This is what I love about book blogs ... a book that wouldn't have been on my radar otherwise is now on my to-buy list.

    Thanks for the review.


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