It’s 1958 when Emilena Lamb is brought to Bridgeton Psychiatric Hospital in a catatonic stupor. Sam Atkins, the psychiatrist who admits her, is baffled. Emilena’s husband insists she’s always been the perfect wife and that theirs is a very happy home, which interviews with friends and family seem to support. When Emilena doesn’t improve during her first month in the hospital, she’s transferred to Summerland, a residential facility for “female hysterics” run by the sensuous and eccentric May Manley. Here, the laws which govern modern medicine do not apply, as May employs such therapies as lunar observation and birding to help her “guests re-root in the Earth.” When Sam, desperate to heal Emilena, finds himself caught between May’s unorthodox yet apparently effective approach to healing and the invasive, potentially harmful procedures prescribed by his colleagues, he’s forced to question the beliefs on which he has built his entire professional and personal life.
Plot: This novel is perfectly plotted, fascinating, well-paced, and full of surprises. Readers will be delighted.
Prose: The commonsense voice is spot-on and appropriate to the material. The writing is clean, clear, and, at times, lovely.
Originality: This novel is unique and engaging. The characters and their stories feel original.
Character Development: The characterization here is exceptional. Dr. Atkins and Emilena are flawlessly rendered, while additional characters are multidimensional.
Date Submitted: May 24, 2018