Title: The Isolation Door
Author: Anish Majumdar
Publisher: Ravana Press
Release Date: February 4, 2014
Acquired: ARC from Netgalley.com
Date Finished: 1/21/14
Neil Kapoor, 23, is desperate to create a life beyond the shadow of his mother’s schizophrenia. Years of successive relapses and rehabilitations have forced his father into the role of caretaker and Neil into that of silent witness. But there is no light within this joyless ritual, and any hope for the future rests on finding an exit.
Amidst her latest breakdown, Neil attends drama school in pursuit of a role that might better express the truth of who he is. What started as a desperate gambit becomes the fragile threads of a new life. A relationship blooms with Emily, and each finds strength – and demons – in the other. New friendships with Quincy and Tim grow close and complex. But the emotional remove needed to keep these two lives separate destabilizes the family. Neil’s father, the one constant in the chaos, buckles under the pressure. Enlisting the aid of an Aunt with means and questionable motives, Neil plies ever-greater deceptions to keep the darkness at bay. But this time there will be no going back. As his mother falls to terrifying depths a decision must be made: family or freedom?
In this powerful fiction debut, acclaimed journalist Anish Majumdar shines a much-needed light into the journey of those coping with serious mental disorders and the loved ones who walk alongside them. Incisive and filled with moments of strange beauty, it marks the arrival of a unique voice in American letters.
Let me start by saying, The Isolation Door is not like most of the books I read. It is straight fiction with no paranormal/sci-fi/fantasy twists, AND it was not for book club. So, I really feel like an adult reading this one. 🙂 I actually requested this one from Netgalley because mental illness is fascinating to me. I know that sounds really macabre, but let me explain.
My husband has had a seizure disorder since he was 4 years old. He has also had some very severe reactions to some medications he’s been on in the past. To outsiders, I’m sure this looked like mental illness when, in reality, it was just a bad reaction to medications. Due, in part, to all the crazy med reactions, he opted to have brain surgery in 2006 and has been seizure free since then. I cannot stress enough what a blessing that has been and how it has changed our lives for the better. Through this journey, I became more and more interested in brain disorders. The brain is a fascinatingly complex organ and mental illness is just one facet of its complexity. I have also had friends and family members who have dealt with bipolar disorder, severe depression and anxiety disorders. So, now you have a bit more understanding about the book’s draw for me. With that being said, let me get on with the review.
I found this book both fascinating and irritating to no end. It was not irritating because the author did not do a good job, but because he did. Majumdar wonderfully captures the struggles of having a family member with a mental disorder. By doing so, he makes you feel the frustration, apprehension, love, and hate that courses through every person who has dealt with the disorder. It was this rollercoaster of emotions that wrecked me throughout most of the book. I wanted to scream at Neil, “Get out while you can! Don’t make the same mistakes your father did!” I could see what was on the horizon and there was nothing I, nor Neil, could do to avoid it. It was maddeningly realistic.
The writing was beautiful. Majumdar is Bengali, and the striking imagery he evoked reminded me of several books I’ve read by Indian authors. It was like a beautiful peach that looks all plump and juicy, but upon closer inspection you realize it’s rotten underneath. The elegant prose covered up the rotten sadness of the story.
It has been a couple of weeks since I finished this book. I kept hoping I would figure out how this book made me feel, but it just hasn’t come to me yet. I think it’s because it made me feel a little bit of everything. In the end, I mostly felt frustrated because it ended exactly how real life ends. It’s impossible to completely cut your roots; it’s difficult to walk away from family; it’s easy to fall into the destructive circles of our pasts.
I gave this book 4 stars, but I can’t really tell you why. It was beautiful. It left me frustrated and sad, but not in a bad way. OMG, this is so hard to explain! Just read it! After you do, let me know what you think so maybe I can rewrite this awful review. 🙂
Majumdar wrote this novel from personal experience. I highly recommend visiting his web-site where he talks about dealing with his own mother’s schizophrenia. Also, part of the proceeds from this book are being donated to schizophrenia research and treatment.
I’d like to give a shout out to Netgalley.com, Ravana Press and Anish Majumdar for giving me the opportunity to read and review this ARC.