On the inside of the fly-cover of this debut novel, 'The Blind', it’s described as One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest for the 21st century ...” Forget it; they could not be more dissimilar.
Sam James is an experienced psychologist who suffers from borderline personality disorder. She decides if she cannot save herself – cigarette and alcohol abuse, plus a tempestuous, carnal relationship with a violent boyfriend, Lucas – she may as well save someone else.
She needs to just be herself, but is unable to encompass, or to achieve, redemption. But a complete volte face occurs when she morphs into the “patient” and her charge (Richard McHugh, a 20-year prison man) a “hopeless case”, one none of her colleagues is prepared to confront, emerges to her as “normal”, providing an identity struggle, fusing them in a terrifying testimony to mental confusion.
One could explain it easily away as an example of the blind leading the blind, or perhaps to the 16th century adage “there are none so blind as those who will not see” being nearer the point; the book’s title being apt.
The novel differs from Cuckoo’s Nest, which through a narrator blasted authorities who controlled individuals through subtle and coercive methods, for in The Blind AF Brady examines the psyche of someone deeply disturbed healing themselves.
I find it strange that someone as highly qualified as our central character could not escape (or seek help to escape) from demons from which she sought to save others. Neither can I accept her excesses had little, if any, impact on her work. But it makes clear how intricate and individual problems of the mind are and how little is really known.
A question to consider is whether personal experience with a problem assists any therapist or makes them more attuned or intuitive?
Nevertheless, Brady cleverly weaves the plot (albeit too slowly for about 100 pages), giving the reader clear evidence of how difficult it is for anyone to accept or understand their own mental shortcomings, even if highly qualified to do so.
Surprisingly, her new patient eventually outsmarts her – something else that surprised me; psychologists are seldom thwarted. McHugh plays dumb at their meetings, then takes advantage of a slip his inquisitor makes and he takes over the role of shrink, ostensibly through an offer Sam cannot refuse. If she tells him her secrets, McHugh says he might come clean about his. She sees this as a cathartic moment; readers might feel it as well.
There’s a twist towards the end, but to differ again from Cuckoo’s Nest, this work is a far more sympathetic view of mental turmoil. It is a work of some note and more such writing from this author might establish her as a leader in her chosen genre.
● Borderline personality disorder shares problems such as impulse control and emotional regulation. Four conditions are: borderline personality disorder, narcissistic personality disorder, histrionic personality disorder, antisocial personality disorder