Can You See Me?
In this earnest, well-meaning first novel, one family's way of coping with the trauma, shame and secrecy of mental illness is explored through two alternating points of view, those of Sarah Solomon and her 25-year-old brother, Doren, a diagnosed schizophrenic. Sarah, 24, had severed contact with her brother, but when her parents, both psychiatrists, ask her to look after him at their home while they attend a psychiatric meeting in Las Vegas, she agrees. As children, the siblings shared a secret world of their own creation known as Zehr, a realm inhabited by the elephant Eliah and the Ivory Queen. Long outgrown by Sarah, Zehr remains real to Doren. Weaving in and out of lucidity, he doesn't always take his medication, telling Sarah it leaves him feeling like one of the ""living dead."" Reminded of their strong bond as children and newly sympathetic to her brother, Sarah takes Doren to live with her, instead of bringing him back to the hospital where he's scheduled to be admitted. Doren promises to take his medication and see a psychiatrist on a regular basis, but when Sarah becomes romantically involved with her landlord, her brother fears abandonment. After trashing Sarah's room and attacking her, he takes off in his car and aimlessly drifts around the country, gradually falling in with a group of other mentally ill homeless people. The suffering of the Solomon family makes this heartfelt work occasionally painful to read, and the author's ambitious attempt to recreate Doren's schizophrenic viewpoint is too awkward and abstract to be convincing. Even so, Brodoff's unpretentious tenor and narrative consistency balance her unwieldy subject and make this a genuinely moving novel. (Nov.)