Thursday, September 03, 2009

Cannonball Read - Book 60

I had never heard of Mount Misery by Samuel Shem, but EJack was giving it away in his moving "sale," and who am I to turn down a free book?
I found this review/synopsis from the School Library Journal at Amazon:
Roy Basch, protagonist of House of God (Dell, 1981), has survived his internship and now begins his three-year training at the aptly named Mount Misery, a posh New England psychiatric hospital. Things get off to an ominous start when his mentor, a renowned therapist in the field of depressive disorders, kills himself. This is just the beginning of a year filled with disaster. Employing gallows humor, Basch and his fellow residents confront bureaucratic nonsense in a manner reminiscent of Richard Hooker's MASH. The tone then becomes more like that of Ken Kesey's One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest as patients are assaulted by the cruel words and manipulations of the powerful attendings. Shem's novel confronts some powerful themes - sexual abuse, psychosis, greed, depression, suicide - and counters them with examples of the very best the human spirit has to offer. The field of psychiatry is unflinchingly held under a microscope and its failings, limitations, and successes are relentlessly catalogued. With such ferocious intensity, this lengthy novel will not appeal to all teens, but those who persevere will find that Mount Misery's "Laws" and characters will live on in their imaginations for some time to come.

First of all: if you read that synopsis, and you have a teenager, DON'T LET YOUR KID READ THIS BOOK. Seriously, it is not for kids, not even high schoolers.

Now, on to the rest of my thoughts: I really hope I never have to go to therapy again. No, that's not true. What I mean is, I hope I never have to go to therapy with any of these jokers. So Mount Misery is a satire, right? So probably the characters needed to be over the top, more like caricatures of psychiatrists than real psychiatrists. Well, they were, all of them, even the ones I was supposed to like. I basically couldn't stand the protagonist, Roy, even though I'm sure I was supposed to feel his pain, be with him in the trenches as his patients failed and then failed some more. But I didn't give two shits about this guy. He was a sucker. He took on every problem that his patients had. Working on the depressive wing? He got majorly depressed. Drug and alcohol wing? Developed a leetle problem with phenobarbitol. As a reader, I didn't find this compelling; I found it annoying.

The sex scenes weren't that great, either. And every time the author threw in a naughty word, it felt like it was for shock value, not in a way that someone would actually use said naughty word.

And then... and then... the ending! It got all preachy and enlightened. To that, I say bah. When your protagonist, his wife, and their adopted Chinese baby daughter go to Arizona and he starts working with drunks on the res and she starts taking care of their preschoolers... I mean, are we supposed to believe that in the course of one year, this guy changed so dramastically (that's dramatically and drastically, for those of you paying attention) that now he's all one with the universe? NO.

Mount Misery is out of print. Just an FYI.

Mount Misery - D+

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