Wednesday, August 17, 2011

The Halfway House by Kathleen Noel

I was at the library one day picking up one of the multitude of books that I had requested (you know, because I had seen it on NPR or something) and I was walking by a book display and saw this novel in it.  I think the display was about summer reading or something like that - and I was intrigued, so I picked up the book and read the inside flap and decided that I would get the book.

Angie Voorster is 17 at the start of this novel and she is everything, seemingly, that you would want your daughter to be, at least on the outside. She is a star athlete - a swimmer that has broken, is breaking and continues to break records - and she has a future in swimming at a division one school. She is also a straight A student, making her a candidate for the Ivy League. She lives with her mom (Jordana), her dad (Pieter) and her younger brother, Luke, who is also a swimmer.  Things seem to be going well until, in the middle of the boys' race, she dives headlong into the pool and to the bottom, convinced that she can breath underwater.  Thus begins Angie's struggles with seemingly depthless mental illness (I think bipolar disorder because she is alternately manic and then depressed). The book focuses on Angie's battle with her mental illness and her family's struggles to deal with their loved one's illnesses.

What was absolutely wonderful about this novel is that Ms. Noel is somehow able to channel the thoughts of a mentally ill person so authentically. Her novel's chapters alternate between all four family members, and are told in each of their voices. Angie's chapters reflect her current mental state - whether medicated or not - and it was wonderful.

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