Monday, November 2, 2009

In and Out of Madness

N. L. Snowden
Sneakaboard Press (2009)
ISBN 9780977476770
Reviewed by Olivera Baumgartner-Jackson for Reader Views (10/09) 
 
"In and Out of Madness" is one of the most disturbing, yet also one of the most powerful books I've read in a long time. Carrying an intriguing subtitle of "A fictionalized account of a true experience," it left me wondering what is it that propels some people into madness while others seem to benefit from the harsh experiences life deals them and simply careen into growing stronger and more resilient.
 
The book's protagonist, Lee Thames, is somebody who seems to attract violence, be it physical or emotional, throughout her life. Having grown up with an abusive grandmother and no less abusive mother, she briefly seems to find solace in the arms of her first husband. That happiness does not last and his actions - as well as his inactions - push Lee into a series of affairs, which, although endorsed by her husband, certainly contribute to the demise of her first marriage. Her second marriage becomes her true undoing. Cursed with an honest desire to please her husband, and almost unbearably willing to trust him, Lee gets entangled in an intricate web woven by her husband Joe, a slick talker who lies, cheats and exploits her in every possible way. The one bright spot of her existence, which luckily remains consistent, is her daughter Jolly.
 
The book begins with Lee escaping from a mental facility after an unsuccessful suicide attempt. She decides to take revenge on her husband, Joe. Planning a perfect murder, Lee revisits the events that lead to this powerful decision, thus familiarizing the reader with the way her mind works.
 
N. L. Snowden's writing is sharp, precise and powerful. The story grabs you quickly and most certainly does not let go. I found it strangely fascinating, somewhat akin to picking on a dried scab on one's knee when we were children. Yes, it hurts, but... Reading "In and Out of Madness" was much like that. Parts of me wanted to put it down, feeling like I was intruding on somebody's most private thoughts. My always inquisitive mind was dead set on finding what happens next. And I was not disappointed. This is definitely a book that I would recommend to anybody who loves solid, tight writing and to anybody who's curious about the ways people's minds work, especially in case of multiple personalities disorder coupled with a bi-polar condition. Enlightening, powerful and strangely uplifting, this is one of those books that will haunt you for a long time.