Wednesday, March 14, 2012
Hystera by Leora Skolkin-Smith
Set in the turbulent 1970s when Patty Hearst became Tanya the Revolutionary, Hystera is a timeless story of madness, yearning, and identity. After a fatal accident takes her father away, Lillian Weill blames herself for the family tragedy. Tripping through failed love affairs with men and doomed friendships, all Lilly wants is to be sheltered from reality. She retreats from the outside world into a world of delusion and the private terrors of a New York City Psychiatric Hospital.
How do we know who we really are? How do we find our true selves under the heavy burden of family and our pasts? In an unpredictable portrait of mental illness, Hystera penetrates to the pulsing heart of the questions.
Memories of her life overwhelm Lillian to the point that she is trapped by them and can no longer function properly on a day to day basis. She is struggling to come to grips with the fact that she is suffering from mental issues and instead finds herself focusing on a "bulb" that has suddenly sprouted between her legs. She tells the doctor about how much pain the "bulb" is causing, but she refuses to let anyone touch her and instead has physical outbursts when the nurses attempt to examine her. She is sad and heartbroken and unable to deal with how she is feeling, and following a failed suicide attempt, agrees to a voluntary stay at a mental hospital.
Once admitted, we learn more about Lillian's relationships. We learn about the guilt she feels over her father's stroke - she was in the bath tub and heard a noise downstairs, but decided to ignore it. Turns out that noise was her father collapsing in the kitchen. Lillian is racked with guilt over the fact that she heard the 'thump', but ignored it. Plus, it doesn't help that her mother blames Lillian for her father's fall. Gee, what a nice mom, eh?
Speaking of Lillian's mother, Helen, well, lets just say that their relationship is complicated. Like in the sense that Helen is always making Lillian feel guilty for anything and everything. You see, Helen is unhappy in her life and marriage. She had plans to leave her husband and head back to Israel, her home country. And then David suffered a stroke, which resulted in brain damage and well, her plans to leave were put on hold. Oh, and Lillian entering a mental hospital, well that is Lillian's fault, and how could she be so selfish as not to consider how it would make her mother feel. Yep, they have their issues.
And we also learn about Mitchell, Lillian's ex-boyfriend. They were seemingly a happy couple for some time, but bit by bit, Lillian began to push Mitchell away. She no longer wanted him touching her and instead found herself feeling "emptied and used. Mitchell touching her body only diminished Lilly, painfully."
As we learn more about Lillian and her hallucinations and dreams, we find out more and more about her issues with sexuality and intimacy. We begin to see how much pain Lillian is dealing with and how she is slowly unraveling. Its captivating and heartbreaking to read. You can't help but be taken in with Lillian's story. I don't want to reveal too much, because I do believe that this a book you must experience for yourself. You need to read it to truly grasp the suffering that Lillian has experienced, along with the sense of normalcy she finally felt once she began to open up to the people around her.
This is a book that will leave you thinking about Lillian for days after. You will not be disappointed!
In case you are interested in learning more about Leora Skolkin-Smith and her books, here is a link to her site . And, here is a link to the TLC Book Tour page in case you want to visit the other bloggers on the Hystera book tour.