Blue Asylum by Kathy Hepinstall - 270 pages
Advanced Reader Copy courtesy of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt and Shelf Awareness
Amid the mayhem of the Civil War, Virginia plantation wife Iris Dunleavy is put on trial and convicted of madness. It is the only reasonable explanation the court can see for her willful behavior, so she is sent away to Sanibel Asylum to be restored to a good, compliant woman. Iris knows, though, that her husband is the true criminal; she is no lunatic, only guilty of disagreeing with him on notions of justice, cruelty, and property.
On this remote Florida island, cut off by swamps and seas and military blockades, Iris meets a wonderful collection of residents--- some seemingly sane, some wrongly convinced they are crazy, some charmingly odd, some dangerously unstable. Which of these is Ambrose Weller, the war-haunted Confederate soldier whose memories terrorize him into wild fits that can only be calmed by the color blue, but whose gentleness and dark eyes beckon to Iris?
The institution calls itself modern, but Iris is skeptical of its methods, particularly the dreaded "water treatment." She must escape, but she has found new hope and love with Ambrose. Can she take him with her? If they make it out, will the war have left anything for them to make a life from, back home?
My Review: 4.5 stars
Holy cow this book took me by surprise. I tend to be a sucker for asylum stories from the 18th century because there is no doubt with my outspoken personality and lack of filter on my mouth, I’d for sure be committed! It sickens me to read in this and many other books about completely sane women who disagree with their spouses, crave equality, enjoy sex or sympathize with their slaves and end up in an asylum. This book starts with this premise however there is so much more. A likeable main character and very interesting, well developed supporting characters fill these pages with their intertwining and individual stories. The Civil war, slavery, love, redemption, guilt and second chances were all themes throughout this book.
The home of this asylum on Sanibel Island was imagined in great detail and the scenery appealed to all my senses. The author did an incredible job describing the landscape, the foliage, the flowers and even the insects and critters.
I’ve read other books by Kathy Hepinstall, which I enjoyed, however this one was by far her best work to date.
Quotes I liked:
-“Ambrose had never seen what his name looked like as she wrote it, and he lingered over the pleasure of the sight. One of the legs of the A was longer than the other, hobbled like a veteran, but the letters that came behind it were perfect and full.”
- “They’d forgotten in the bubble of their courtship, how easy war or its fragments could come and get them.”
- “You thought you could control a man. I thought I could control G-d. So I can’t give you any wisdom. But I can sit here with you and serve as your companion. I can do that just fine.”
Tags: Historical Fiction, 2012, Slavery, Civil War
Labels: 2012, Civil War, Historical Fiction, Slavery