A Lesson in Mentality

By Tanya J. Peterson

Inkwater Press, $17.95 paperback
$2.99 Kindle and ePub, 327 pages

Leave of Absence by Tanya J. Peterson is a story of a troubled man named Oliver, struggling to cope with the unseemly deaths of his wife and son. Failing to commit suicide, he is immediately admitted to a local behavioral center called Airhaven. During the first few days, he spends his time alone, avoiding any sort of human connection offered to him, but by chance meets a young woman, who suffers schizophrenia, named Penelope. Throughout the course of the book, they nurture a growing connection that, in the end, leads to saving their lives.

The characters are beautifully portrayed in that you can understand and feel their pain. Peterson has a gift for bringing a seemingly complex thought to life and replicating it in a way that the general public may understand. To describe the inner workings of a person who deals with schizophrenia is no easy task, yet Peterson does it flawlessly. She creates a world that you would not expect and simplifies it elegantly. Those who watch from a distance become a vital part to the person’s being and struggles. In a sordid way, she puts us all in the place of the suffering so that we may better understand how to approach what we cannot relate.

Throughout the book, the characters who help to take care of the mentally unstable give off a feeling of being unrealistic. They seem to speak in a way that is unnatural. One thing the reader should know while reading the book, though, is that in an environment where one is caring for and in charge of the mentally unstable, the way we speak to them is almost like another language, which explains why the staff characters in the novel feel almost unrealistic. With this understanding, the reader is better able to understand the different characters and what is going on. ||The novel is a great way to peek inside the unknown. Peterson deals with the characteristics of each individual with perfection, all the while giving us a taste of true human suffering. If you enjoy novels that deepen your understanding and deal with the process of grieving, pick up Leave Absence today.

Reviewed by Taylor Pittman

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