What a thrill this book has been! I started reading and I couldn’t put it down. It was like a book on anti-gravity. All jokes aside, this book is a hell of a roller-coaster. What is worse than losing your mind? Is knowing it’s happened before to one member of your family and knowing it’s now happening to you and now you are the one who presents a danger to others.
The plains of human suffering are slippery slopes. Every traveller is so frail and unsteady, vulnerable to even the slightest threat of doubt or uncertainty. The goal here is to change his emotional climate. To normalise the feelings he has about his past trauma so that he’s able to talk about them.
This is my unyielding world, where I mend ruptured minds and fuse cognitive wires. A world that—if emotions were physical—would be a tangled mess of hooks and thorns.
Meet our protagonist, Dr. Christopher Kellan. He spends his days at Loveland Psychiatric Hospital, overseeing a unit known as Alpha Twelve, home to the most deranged and psychotic killers imaginable. These are people who kill children, who torture and rape women and who have been known to skin their victims alive.
His newest patient, Donny Ray Smith, is accused of murdering ten young girls and making their bodies disappear. Christopher is tasked to finding out whether he’s malingering or not.
From the get-go, Christopher feels an odd connection to Donny Ray. He’s very handsome and he can’t tell whether he’s lying to him or not.
Physical beauty can have interesting effects on the psyche, not to mention on those who fall—willingly or unwillingly—into its path.
So he’s sitting there listening to Donny Ray remembering his childhood, his tales of an abusive father, of his sister, of ongoing sexual abuse of both himself and his sibling and Christopher is listening, watching and judging.
There’s only about a fifty percent accuracy rate in the study of micro-expressions and body language as indicators of deception, and if I’m indeed dealing with a pathological liar, that would reduce the reliability quotient to zero.
Donny Ray knows things about Christopher—things he couldn’t have possibly learned at Loveland. As the psychologist delves deeper into the mysterious patient’s case, Christopher’s life whirls out of control. The contours of his mind are rapidly losing shape, and his grasp on reality is slipping even faster. Is he going mad, or is that what Donny Ray wants him to think?
How can I pull my mind together, when all the pieces are not only out of reach but twirling around me like scattered windup tops?
It all started when his car careened off the road when passing a tree. The thing is, it was raining really hard and there was a child who was chasing a ball in the street that caused him to crash his car. But when he came to a halt, windshield shattered, the rain was gone and there were no other people near him. The roads were dry too. As he takes in his surroundings he starts doubting his own sanity. His father was really sick too – suffering from schizophrenic paranoia – a disease that ate at him and his mother’s lives until there was nothing left.
We were all struggling against the same truth, each in our own way: my mother fighting mightily to ignore it, me feeling threatened by it, and my father hopelessly lost in it. The more difficult my dad became, the more my mom would bounce between two rocky states, either digging into her toolbox for another mental contrivance or isolating herself within the dark clouds of depression. When things became most intolerable, she would exercise the option of committing my father for “evaluation.” Then off he’d go, shipped away for the county to deal with.
Time keeps bending, my perceptions doing the same, and I’m no longer sure whether to trust either. It’s like a part of me is dying. Or maybe I’m already dead.
His wife is really supportive of his lapses. He starts experiencing time loss, starts hearing voices telling him what to do and he starts suspecting everyone of conspiring against him in order to make him lose his psychiatrist license.
“Let’s talk this out!” he shouts from several feet back.
You don’t need to hear it.
“I don’t need to hear it!” I yell.
“Chris! We’ve been friends for too long. I’m just worried about you. You’re completely misunderstanding things.”
It was no misunderstanding.
“It was no misunderstanding!”
“Chris, please. Look at me!”
You don’t have time for him.
“ I don’t have time for you!”
The book turns a bit dark as his own descent into madness is recognised. Donny Ray’s case isn’t helping either. Hearing him relieve his early childhood trauma brings his own painful childhood memories into view again.
One of the first things I learned during my early clinical studies was that trauma is attracted to trauma. While my childhood experiences bear no resemblance to Donny Ray’s, the family dynamic feels awfully familiar: a father who inflicts deep psychological pain on a child, and a mother who checks out, only to inflict yet another layer of damage. It would be difficult for any psychologist to hear a story like Donny Ray’s and not feel affected by it. We are, after all, human. We have emotional vulnerabilities just like everyone else, and while we’ve been trained to compartmentalize in order to help others, every so often a patient comes along who holds up the mirror to us. what’s looking us in the face. Still, I refuse to believe that I’m losing objectivity with Donny Ray—I’m simply using my own human experiences as a tool to get information I need.
When he hurts his own child (“Devon” was a real sweetie), his own wife starts looking at him with fear and he knows, that for his safety and other’s, he needs to commit himself. He loves his child so much and he doesn’t want to hurt him in any way. Knowing how his own relationship with his father affected him, he knows that it’s best for his own child if he were removed from his life.
Having a parent die suddenly is a pain sharp and swift. Watching him submit to a slow death is even more excruciating. But when the mind goes before the body, it’s like attending a funeral every day. Sometimes I wished my father would just die and get it over with. At the same time, a war raged within me between anger and guilt. I’d been cheated out of what should have been a continued and loving relationship with my father, and during the moments I found strength to be truthful with myself, I hated him for it.
We have a massive climax towards the end – with Donnie Ray threatening to escape and hurt Devon, with patients going missing from the hospital and with something that looks like a conspiracy forming around him centering around his best friend, a fellow doctor. We can’t tell what is reality and what is the truth as Christopher’s perceptions and paranoia make him an unreliable narrator. When the truth finally surfaces we find out that the story was never what it seemed (no spoilers, go read it).
5/5 for the amazing ending
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Andrew E. Kaufman lives in Southern California with his two Labrador retrievers and a very bossy Jack Russell terrier who thinks she owns the place. An Emmy-nominated broadcast journalist, he eventually realised that writing about reality wasn’t nearly as fun as making international bestselling author of psychological thrillers. Andrew became one of the highest-grossing independent authors in the country with combined sales reaching into the six-figure mark.
The Lion, the Lamb, the Hunted was on Amazon’s Top 100 bestsellers list for more than one hundred days, where it became the seventh bestselling title out of more than one million e-books available nationwide and number one in its genre. He is also a contributor to Chicken Soup for the Soul , where he has chronicled his battle against cancer and the subsequent struggle to redefine his life, at last pursuing his dream of becoming an author.