One of the biggest questions with us all throughout this pandemic has been how do we deal with grief?
David Bergen explores the theory of how one might deal with grief in Out of Mind.
Lucille Black, a psychiatrist introduced in Bergen’s previous novel The Matter with Morris is still coming to terms with her grief and where she belongs in this novel. Her grief? Wide and varied. She’s divorced and struggling with interactions between her ex-husband and herself. It doesn’t help that he wrote a memoir. Her son Martin died from friendly fire in the army. Her youngest daughter Libby has left, gone to Thailand seemingly to join a cult. A man she rejected has invited her to his wedding. She’s struggling with how she perceives herself, growing old, and how she feels.
I received an ARC from the publisher, Goose Lane Editions for the purpose of an honest review.
This book is not the usual fare I would expect from the publisher. For one thing, it’s not the sweeping and long tale I would normally see from them. Perhaps it’s the author’s style of writing, it makes Lucille’s journey easy to digest and follow, or perhaps it’s because of my own explorations with grief in these past two-plus years.
Lucille sweeps from confidence to quiet uncertainty in this book regularly, with ebbs and flows of consciousness and outrage apparent in every encounter. She’s unsteady on her feet when she confronts Shane, Libby’s love interest and her attempts to regain her feet trip her up and elicit high amounts of emotion. She’s timid with her lost young paramour Baptiste, excited but nervous about how others would see them.
Encounters with other people who confide in her regularly see her reliving her role as a psychiatrist, secure and confident and offering murmured condolences while ignoring the parallels to her own life. Many people regularly think they are not put together enough to help others put together their own lives but the truth of the matter is that rarely do people take their own good advice.
Lucille is the person who smacks of taking her own advice. She cautions others about interfering in their loved ones’ lives and then goes on a vacation to “rescue” her youngest, who is intended to be a doctor. She tells people to live for the moment in love and time and time again declines advances from interested parties.
The biggest question when it comes to when a man has written as a woman is if it was believable or not. I would say this author avoids the trip-ups of others, such as describing her physical body too much. However, normally at the end of a book, I feel I could get a sense of the personality of the main character or determine their reaction to certain situations. In this case, Lucille is not developed enough for me to say this. The ending, while sufficient, left no overall feeling to me one way or another that Lucille had found her feet.
The writing was fascinating enough to keep me actively intrigued and reading, and there was a sense of obliviousness from Lucille after every encounter. She talks in length about choice and attempts to sway Libby’s choices. She discusses cheating and her betrayal at how her ex-husband has a much younger wife after leaving her. She argues with Morris over the phone saying she was not cold and withdrawn and resented being portrayed that way instead of working out problems with him, regularly disconnects the phone.
One quote from the book sums up the story; “People listen to your story and then they connect it to their own story, and so now it is their story that becomes important, and the original story gets lost. No one wants to really know about my life, or your life, or someone else’s life.”
Short and sweet, contemplative and uncertain.
The only large error I could find was when Lucille saw Libby in person and demanded to know why her texts weren’t replied to, and Libby shrugged and said “there was no wifi.”
(If Libby was younger, about to go to medical school, she would know you don’t need wifi to send texts, just a tower signal. Wifi is for internet use.)