Review: The Isolation Door

Book Title: The Isolation Door

Book Author: Anish Majumdar

Book Rating: ☆☆☆ (3 out of 5 stars)

Synopsis: “For most of his twenty-three years, Neil Kapoor has been desperate to move beyond the shadow of his mother’s schizophrenia. Once he enters drama school, he finally has the chance to find his place in the world. Surrounded by a group of students who, like him, have complex emotional needs, Neil falls in love with Emily, a lovely young woman dealing with her own demons.

But keeping two worlds hidden from each other proves to be too great a task for the emotionally fragile Neil. After his mother experiences yet another breakdown, he must confront the painful reality of how his father, his aunt, and the doctors have dealt with her illness over the years, each in their own flawed way. And as his beloved mother falls farther into darkness, he will have to make the most difficult choice of his life: uniting with his family, or breaking free from them forever.”

I work in a psychiatric office where we see many patients who have been diagnosed with schizophrenia.  I certainly do not want to undermine the struggles that these patients face on a daily basis, but it was great to read a novel that depicts the struggles that the families of these individuals have to overcome.  Although a work of fiction, this story felt very real to me, and seemed like a very accurate representation of this debilitating illness.

Neil Kapoor is a sensitive young man who is planning to return to school to pursue acting, against his father’s wishes.  His mother has been battling chronic schizophrenia and relies heavily on Neil, her husband, and her sister to properly treat her illness.  The book opens with a heartbreaking scene in which Neil’s mother his being committed to a psychiatric hospital for treatment.  It was very interesting to read the different, but realistic, ways that her family coped with and responded to her symptoms.  Neil’s father appeared to be somewhat in denial, and often detached himself from difficult situations.  Neil’s aunt, his mother’s sister, was more intolerant of her and at times could even be a little cruel.  And Neil?  Well, Neil was just numb from having to deal with his mother’s illness his entire life, and all of the ups and downs that came with it.

I would have rated this book a bit higher (it is extremely well-written, especially for a debut author), except for the fact that I had a really hard time connecting with the narrator.  I can completely sympathize with his desire to separate his family life from the life that he hoped to create for himself.  However, I couldn’t really get into the parts of the story where Neil was spending time with the friends he had made at college.  He and all of his college friends just came across as very shallow, and each had their own heavy emotional baggage to deal with.  In the end, this book really turned out to be more of a coming of age story, which is fine, but not really what I was expecting.

Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book from Netgalley.

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