In her tour-de-force first novel, Juliann Garey takes us inside the restless mind, ravaged heart, and anguished soul of Greyson Todd, a successful Hollywood studio executive who leaves his wife and young daughter and for a decade travels the world giving free reign to the bipolar disorder he’s been forced to keep hidden for almost 20 years. The novel intricately weaves together three timelines: the story of Greyson’s travels (Rome, Israel, Santiago, Thailand, Uganda); the progressive unraveling of his own father seen through Greyson’s eyes as a child; and the intimacies and estrangements of his marriage. The entire narrative unfolds in the time it takes him to undergo twelve 30-second electroshock treatments in a New York psychiatric ward. This is a literary page-turner of the first order, and a brilliant inside look at mental illness.
I’m sorry to say that I really didn’t care for this book. It’s not the writing, by any means, but the main character, Greyson, that I didn’t like. The writing itself is very well done, Garey is an exceptional writer, but when I don’t like the central character, for eighty percent of the book, it’s hard to like the novel overall. In the end, I did end up caring a little bit about Greyson—his life was difficult, bipolar disorder is extremely hard to live with, and the reunion and situation at the end with his memory loss, etc., made him a much more sympathetic character, in my opinion. But, it’s still hard for me to forgive and forget his many terrible choices throughout the novel, such as picking up and leaving his wife and child without a word. Now, I do understand why he did it… it is explained within the text, as is his illness, but his character still rubbed me the wrong way, which is unfortunate.
The story itself unfolds as Greyson undergoes electroshock treatments, and thus, the novel is somewhat choppy as Greyson remembers different sections of his life and relays them to the reader. I found this choppiness to be a little too sporadic for me, but I enjoyed it in that it really symbolizes Greyson’s mind and mental illness. Really, the way the novel is set up is quite genius, and I think many will really enjoy it—I just need a lighter, happier setting, I think. Greyson’s many choices throughout life were less than pleasant, and his manner towards everyone really made me dislike him. Two stars.
Soho Press has been extremely gracious in allowing me to read an ARC of this novel, via Netgalley, prior to its release on December 26, 2012.