Sunday, December 28, 2014

Where The Moon Isn't

Where the Moon Isn't: A Novel

Where the Moon Isn't is a stunning novel that left me completely bowled over. Told in the voice of Matthew Homes, who is writing down what has happened, the story unfolds over Matt's life between ages 10 and 19. 

As a young boy, Matt had a older-by-2-years brother, Simon, who happened to have Down's Syndrome. One of the features of DS kids is that they have moon faces - roundish features and often a happy grin. Through misadventure, Simon dies and Matt who feels responsible descends into despair. His moon is missing. Note the excellent portrayal on the cover. 

As he moves into his teen years, like so many other young adults, Matt encounters mental illness, eventually diagnosed as schizophrenia. He is fully cognizant of his illness but is helpless in its throes. One of the obsessions he lives with is Simon and how to bring him back. At age 19 he starts to write it all down,and that narrative is what we are reading.

First-time author, Nathan Filer, is a British former mental health nurse and familiar with the ways that mental illness can take over a person's life. Filer is inspired in opening the novel with Matt as a normal child and then having us, the readers, accompany him into the descent of his illness, with heart-breaking effect on his relationships with family and friends. 

In the same way that Mark Haddon's  A Curious Incident of a Dog in the Night-time gave us a window into what it's like to have high-functioning autism, we are immersed into the experience of being schizophrenic. It feels authentic. At the same time, we love Matthew Homes. He is sweet and fun and has a quirky sense of humour. We laugh, we cry, we empathize. 

As they say in the UK, this book is brilliant!