Piece of Mind (★★★☆☆)

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Michelle Adelman  *  W.W. Norton & Co.  *  February 8, 2016  *  320 Pages

When Lucy was three years old, she was in a serious car accident that left her brain damaged. Now 27, she is bright, funny, creative, and loving, but she still struggles with her day-to-day functioning. She is horribly messy. She has difficulty following through, planning, or arriving anywhere on time. She can’t tell right from left and she can’t follow directions, so she can’t drive. And the list goes on. To make matters worse, she also suffers regularly from debilitating migraines.

For most of her life, Lucy has been coping by relying very heavily (I would say too heavily) on her father. But when he dies unexpectedly, she is forced to uproot her mostly stable life to go live with her younger brother in his small apartment in New York City. Most of the book focuses on how the two of them struggle to adjust to their new realities. Both have to put their hopes for the future on hold while they pursue more practical matters like, you know, paying rent and buying food. And they also have to learn how to deal with each other now that they are assuming drastically different roles: Lucy’s brother becomes her caretaker, of sorts–and he does a pretty good job of it, all things considered–but since he can’t possibly mimic the codependent relationship Lucy had with her father, Lucy is forced to push herself, to grow and to learn new things.

Despite the fact that Adelman covers some weighty topics here, the book actually stays very light, and only rarely delves beneath the surface. People die, there is relationship drama, and the book doesn’t even have a particularly happy ending…but it all still feels like fluff. The characters feel pain, sure, but nothing unbearable; even in their darkest moments, they still see color.

I commend Adelman for coming up with a unique story (from her acknowledgements section, it sounds like her sister may have been at least part of her inspiration for the character of Lucy). But I do think she could have gone deeper with the characters to really bring them to life. As is, Piece of Mind is perfectly fine, but nothing fantastic. I think there was potential here for something great, though, so even though the book was enjoyable enough, I couldn’t help but feel disappointed.

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