A Madness So Discrete is the story of Grace Mae a teenage girl who has been put in an asylum at the turn of the century because she is pregnant and has responded with elective mutism. This book starred out very well. I mean, look at that cover! And the opening scenes were harrowing and so full of tension that my hands were aching from holding my kindle so hard. I think that it could have been a horrifying and eye opening examination of the way that we have treated the mentally historically. And it was for a while. And then it turns into a murder mystery. Meh.
I could have done without the “mystery”. Just figuring out how to function in a world that thinks you are insane would have been enough. In fact I kind of question why they even bothered having Grace in the asylum at all. It certainly wasn’t hard to get out. It didn’t help that I cared absolutely nothing about her detective work with the doctor. It felt as if he was just selfishly trying to prove his cleverness and using Grace as this mindless pawn.
I am not sure how I feel about Grace. I started off really empathizing with her but as the book moved on I found her less and less likable. There were many times that she was incredible selfish and callous towards others. It is as if when she is pushed to use her intellect by the doctor that she becomes less feeling. I am not sure that I like the implication of that correlation. Even if it isn’t directly expressed. I am also not sure about her development as a character. She never seems to change from the first time that she speaks.
“Grace had learned long ago that the true horrors of this world were other people.”
One of the things that I enjoyed most about this book was the fact that there was NO love interest. The fact that she was pregnant for the first part of the book with her fathers baby makes this seem pretty likely. I cannot imagine a scenario where any sort of romance would have been acceptable.
I also enjoyed her two roommates. Nell was a girl with some kind of sexually transmitted disease (they call her syphilitic but I am not sure. Generalized pox?) She is basically put in the asylum because she had sex with men. And doesn’t feel bad about it. The horror! She was funny and sharp and her story was so much more painful because I liked her. Lizzie the other roommate has an invisible string that floats by her head and tells her things. Aside from that she is a typical straight-laced girl of her times. Or so you think. Lizzie shows a lot more flexibility, love and decency then I had thought she was capable of at first.
I finished this book but the last 50% was a hard slug and I found myself avoiding my kindle. It is a shame because I really liked the writing style and use of mood so I think that there was such potential for this book to be better. I have heard good things about Not a Drop to Drink so I will give Mindy McGinnis another shot.
Grace Mae knows madness.
She keeps it locked away, along with her voice, trapped deep inside a brilliant mind that cannot forget horrific family secrets. Those secrets, along with the bulge in her belly, land her in a Boston insane asylum.
When her voice returns in a burst of violence, Grace is banished to the dark cellars, where her mind is discovered by a visiting doctor who dabbles in the new study of criminal psychology. With her keen eyes and sharp memory, Grace will make the perfect assistant at crime scenes. Escaping from Boston to the safety of an ethical Ohio asylum, Grace finds friendship and hope, hints of a life she should have had. But gruesome nights bring Grace and the doctor into the circle of a killer who stalks young women. Grace, continuing to operate under the cloak of madness, must hunt a murderer while she confronts the demons in her own past.
In this beautifully twisted historical thriller, Mindy McGinnis, acclaimed author of Not a Drop to Drink and In a Handful of Dust, explores the fine line between sanity and insanity, good and evil—and the madness that exists in all of us.