A dark yet often funny novel narrated by a man who, for the past two months, has been a patient at a New York City mental ward. Having suffered a breakdown—due to his shattered marriage and an irrational fear of fading away as a human—he now finds himself caught between two worlds, neither of which is a place of comfort or fulfillment: the world of the ward, where abnormality and an odd sort of freedom reign, and the outside world, where convention and restrictive behavior rule. Finally on his way to becoming reasonably “normal” again, he requests and is granted a “solo pass,” which allows him to leave the (locked) ward for several hours and visit the city, with the promise that he will return to the hospital by evening.
As he prepares for his excursion, we get a picture of the ward he will temporarily leave behind—the staff and the patients, notably Mandy Reid, a schizophrenic and nymphomaniac who has become his closest friend there. Solo Pass is an unsettling satire that depicts, with inverted logic, the difficulties of madness and normalcy.
My opinion: I requested this book from Netgalley as it seemed to be right up my street. And I was not disappointed.
We follow the main character as he embarks on a days release from the mental ward where he is currently staying following a breakdown. We get to meet a variety of characters on the ward, plan his journey with him and get out onto the mean streets of New York. More importantly, we get to feel his feelings, ride the emotional rollercoaster that he does and understand what caused the breakdown and irrational thoughts.
I really enjoyed this book. I thought it was sensitively handled without feeling as if it was walking on eggshells and gave a real insight into the irrational thoughts that often accompany a range of mental illnesses. Some parts of the book were really quite funny and others were heartbreakingly sad. The characters were all very human and parts of the storyline kept me guessing.
I will definitely seek out more from this author.
My rating: Four stars.
Original review at Reading in Progress