Plot: Wald’s My Famous Brain takes on a unique approach to describing life and perhaps what life after death can look like. Wald is especially adept at describing the complexity and nuances of the human psyche.
Prose/Style: A non-linear story conveyed to the reader through the ghost of Jack MacLeod, Wald’s narrative has a beautiful rhythm. The pace is aptly slow, but the dazzling prose does not disengage the reader.
Originality: This story of friendship, love, loss, and autonomy is a testimony to a life lived and how reflection and curiosity can set a person free.
Character/Execution: Protagonist Jack and his close friends and lovers are beautifully written and fully understood by the reader. Wald gives ample time and effort to their development. Similarly, tertiary players, such as Frances and Mussel, are exquisitely characterized.
Blurb: A captivating story through and through, Diane Wald showcases her skills in this profound story told from the perspective of a deceased genius, lover, and friend.
Date Submitted: August 23, 2021
In Wald’s novel, the spirit of a recently deceased psychology professor looks back on his life and career, the women he loved, and the tumor that killed him.When Jack MacLeod died, he “expected to have the mysteries of the universe open up to me like water lilies in the sunlight, but, alas, that isn’t what happened at all.” Despite his demise, he’s still contemplating his life as a 40-ish, bespectacled, unhappily married professor at a New Jersey college. At the end of his time on Earth, he was suffering from a benign but inoperable brain tumor. Stoic and in a somber environment, Jack was always happy to see Eliza, a quiet, determined student.At the same time, his marriage was ending, as his wife, Frances, never thought he was ever rich or successful enough. As Jack deteriorated, he had some regrets: He wished that he’d known his two sons better and that he could have pursued an extramarital affair with Eliza. He also ruminated about Wally Mussel, the despicable head of the psychology department—a grotesque beast of a man who may be blackmailing someone and is likely responsible for worse offenses. His reign of terror also began to directly affect Jack’s life, but he hatched a secret plan with a beloved colleague to expose Mussel for what he was. Wald’s evocative novel manages to deftly capture the mood and myriad voices of the academic world; however, it also narrows its focus to delve deeply into the sensitive mind of its introspective protagonist. Jack is certainly an intelligent, if somewhat sedate, man, and his varied experiences with three different women are depicted out of sequence by a writer who understands timing as much as she does a beautifully crafted sentence. Jack’s life is a serious and pensive one, and it doesn’t end well, but there are flashes of dark humor over the course of the narrative that make it very appealing.
A compelling, challenging, and utterly gripping tale…
In this evocative, and at times rueful tale, Wald draws readers deep into one man’s journey to forgiveness, acceptance, and redemption. Jack MacLeod looks back on his life after his early death, taking readers into interrelated tales of his early childhood and teen years as an intellectually gifted child participating in a research study and his successful career as a clinical psychologist and university professor. Struggling with a major life-threatening illness and his unhappy marriage, Jack meets Eliza, one of his students, and embarks on a brief but life-altering affair. His intimate relationship with a colleague brings him face to face with Wally Mussel, the head of the psychology department and a dreadful bully, who finds pleasure in making others’ life a living hell. Jack takes it upon himself to set the man straight. Wald fills her imaginative tale with splendid language and convincing romantic complications. The academic world of the New Jersey college is vividly drawn, and the petty politics the members of the staff unwittingly become a part of is authentic and palpable. Wald’s prose is lush, and she beautifully humanizes her characters, particularly Jack, detailing his restless childhood as a gifted child, extended bouts of boredom as he moves from one interest to another throughout his teens and young adult years, his extramarital affairs, his endearing friendship with Donald Rath, and risky approach to his deteriorating health. Evocative philosophical questions reveal Wald’s powers, as Jack comes to terms with his own failures and also finds acceptance and forgiveness in his heart. Gripping and deep, Jack’s story not only speaks to the reader’s head but also their heart. Wald is an author to watch.
“Wald’s evocative novel manages to deftly capture the mood and myriad voices of the academic world; however, it also narrows its focus to delve deeply into the sensitive mind of its introspective protagonist . . . [Wald is] a writer who understands timing as much as she does a beautifully crafted sentence. A sensitive and moody take on personal connections between loved ones.”
“Author Diane Wald has crafted a truly intriguing slice of life drama which chronicles some quite incredible events and teaches us the value of observation of others and the effects caused to other people by how we live our lives.”
“Masterfully combining the human and soul experience in one voice, Diane Wald brings to life a character from the beyond who knows how to be present in his past with the wisdom and insight of the afterlife. A must-read for anyone needing a reminder of the preciousness of life.”
—Christina Rasmussen, best-selling author of Where Did You Go?
“Diane Wald is a fantastic storyteller with the ear of a poet. My Famous Brain is an enthrallingly complex, layered story where relationships and loves are like feedback loops in a fallen-down house of time. Deceased narrator Jack MacLeod suffers a brain tumor and exists between headache and heartache, where, he says, “the mysteries of the universe open up to me like waterlilies in the sunlight.” He shuffles his memories, loves, and fears, searching for communion, connection, and empathy. This is a novel about what it is to be alive or dead, and to experience time as it moves through the body.”
—Patrick Lawler, author of Rescuers of Skydivers Search Among the Clouds and The Meaning of If
“Diane Wald’s literary ability lifts the reader into an empathic relationship with each character. Her development of these characters’ relationships, not only with humans but also with precious animals, gives the reader the ability to feel—something our society desperately needs. This novel tells the story of a most intriguing man, and the plot twists and turns never fail to show how various lives come together to create the fullness of one life.”
—Annette Daloia Scanlon, Social Worker in Hospice & Palliative Care in Human & Veterinary Medicine
“A compelling, challenging, and utterly gripping tale. . . . Wald’s prose is lush, and she beautifully humanizes her characters.”
―The Prairies Book Review