Thursday, March 17, 2016

Audiobook Review: Piece of Mind by Michelle Adelman

Piece of Mind
A funny, poignant tale for readers of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time. At twenty-seven, Lucy knows everything about coffee, comic books, and Gus (the polar bear at the Central Park Zoo), and she possesses a rare gift for drawing. But since she suffered a traumatic brain injury at the age of three, she has had trouble relating to most people. She’s also uncommonly messy, woefully disorganized, and incapable of holding down a regular job. When her father’s unexpected death forces her out of the comfortable and protective Jewish home where he cared for her, and into a cramped studio apartment in New York City with her college-age younger brother, she must adapt to an entirely different life?one with no safety net. And when her “normal” brother snaps under the pressure and disappears, Lucy discovers that she has more strengths than she herself knew. Told with warmth and intelligence, Piece of Mind introduces one of the most endearing and heroic characters in contemporary fiction.
I loved the main character in this book.  The best part of me is that the author didn't make Lucy a caricature or portray her disability as cute and quirky.  She did a great job of creating a believable character who has serious struggles, but who isn't always likable or sympathetic.  Which is just the thing about brain damage, autism spectrum disorders, and mental illnesses - they aren't always funny and quirky and cute.  They can make people act in ways that are off-putting and annoying or hard to understand.  Adelman did a great job of capturing that in Lucy and keeping her disability from becoming just fun character trait played for humor.

Entertainment Value
While I appreciated the authors treatment of the characters, I wasn't just enthralled by the story line.  I cared a bit about Lucy and what would happen to her, but I didn't feel any urgency to finish the book or keep listening.  I'd listen for a while and then find myself turning it off to listen to something else.  And when the ending arrived I felt like it was fairly anti-climatic.  What shines here are the characters and their relationships with each other, not the plot line or how it is (or fails to be) wrapped up.  I am fine with books that have ambiguous endings, but I felt like this one was so ambiguous that I missed out on what the novel was even about.

The narrator does a fine job - I enjoyed her voice and her pacing and would definitely listen to her again.  I think I probably finished this because it was on audio - if I had been reading I would have either skimmed or put it down.  I loved the way the author handled Lucy's disability, but the story line just didn't engage me the way I expected it to.

While I'm not giving the book a hearty endorsement, I do think it will appeal to a certain group of readers.  Anyone who is looking for a book where brain injury/mental illness/disability is treated in a realistic way that isn't patronizing or used as "inspiration" will find this to be a welcome read.  It's also good if you're looking for a book that is more about characterization and less about story, but that isn't over-written.  It's a short listen on audio and the narrator does great, so I'd recommend trying it that way.

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