Bird-Eyes

Madelyn M. Arnold, Author Seal Press (CA) $8.95 (201p) ISBN 978-0-931188-62-6
This first novel paints a strong portrait of the human spirit in rebellion against the mindless cruelty of ""the system'' that seeks to crush anyone who is different. Arnold presents the world of back-ward mental patients in the 1960s through the eyes of Latisha, a 16-year-old lesbian ``incorrigible,'' who was brutalized by her father, introduced to heroin and prostitution by her lover and is taken advantage of by both men and women on the hospital staff. Latisha nonetheless reaches out to someone even more isolated than she. Anna is a deaf woman hospitalized for depression by her relatives, who are convinced that they have done what is best for her and who refuse to believe that her psychiatrist forbids her to communicate using sign language. Latisha teaches Anna to survive the inhuman hospital rules, while Anna provides Latisha with her first genuine, non-exploitive human connection. By and large, Arnold successfully manages the perspective of a 16-year-old with compassion and without sentimentality. The relationships in the novel are plausible, and the details of how mental hospitals were operated in the early 1960s frighteningly realistic. The novel's only real flaw is that it begins slowly and little in Latisha's early narration helps to build rapport with the reader. (May)
Reviewed on: 04/25/1988
Release date: 05/01/1988
Paperback - 240 pages - 978-0-312-26294-5
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