Title: A Madness So Discreet
Author: Mindy McGinnis
Genre: Young Adult, Historical Fiction
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books
Release Date: October 6th, 2015
Length: 376 pages | 9 hours 30 minutes
Source: Borrowed from my local library
Grace Mae knows madness.
She keeps it locked away, along with her voice, trapped deep inside a brilliant mind that cannot forget horrific family secrets. Those secrets, along with the bulge in her belly, land her in a Boston insane asylum.
When her voice returns in a burst of violence, Grace is banished to the dark cellars, where her mind is discovered by a visiting doctor who dabbles in the new study of criminal psychology. With her keen eyes and sharp memory, Grace will make the perfect assistant at crime scenes. Escaping from Boston to the safety of an ethical Ohio asylum, Grace finds friendship and hope, hints of a life she should have had. But gruesome nights bring Grace and the doctor into the circle of a killer who stalks young women. Grace, continuing to operate under the cloak of madness, must hunt a murderer while she confronts the demons in her own past.
Not as powerful as The Female of the Species, but still a good, solid story. And a gritty one. Rape, incest, physical abuse, mental abuse, serial killers, suicide, pretty much everything that will make you feel uncomfortable or depressed is in this book. BUT it does all serve the narrative. If you didn’t know, mental health in the 1800s was essentially torture. And given the main character is a mental ward patient (and female) in the 1800s, she and her cohorts are essentially powerless and horrible horrible things happen.
The silver lining is that Grace does heal. Not in the sappy Hallmark channel way, but in a way that feels very real (in phases, not in a linear progression, etc.) and more for the benefit of the world around her. Her healing aids other characters, which makes it….not exactly a warm, fuzzy tale….but knowing it’s not gratuitous pain you’re reading may help you get through it.
I listened to this one on audiobook, and the narrator was excellent. Each character was fully brought to life, to that point where I forgot it was just one person speaking. I love when that happens!
Rest assured the ending has more good than bad in it, and there are some amazingly fierce characters and moments. The story definitely carries a thread of what The Female of the Species focuses on- that women are disenfranchised and suppressed by a patriarchal society (doubly true in 1800s America) but can challenge, or subvert, some of that when they band together with little rebellions. This book, primarily through the male protagonist, also had something to say about the concept of insanity and mental illness (when is it illness, and when is it “just a different perspective”- again, especially poignant in the 1800s when nearly anything against the accepted norm could be taken for madness).
I do recommend it, grits and all, to anyone who enjoys historical fiction, dark journeys, redemption/revenge stories, characters you can get behind even if they aren’t compassionate, and stories with real emotional weight.