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The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides. Celedon Books, 2019. 297 pp.

David Baldacci writes,  “Smart sophisticated storytelling freighted with real suspense.” And I could not agree more.

Theo is the narrator. He is a criminal psychotherapist who has become interested in Alicia who had become a big story in the media when she shot and killed her husband, Gabriel, who she had apparently loved very much. She then became silent, giving no explanation of what had happened, and was put in a psychiatric hospital where she was judged as a hopeless case, receiving drugs to keep her sedated, but no personal therapy.

Theo has just been hired at the hospital and very much would like to work with her. Over the objections of some of the staff the Director reluctantly allowed him to do so. And there the story takes off with so many twists and turns and different characters that first you think one thing and then, at the turn of a page, another.

Alicia is a famous painter. The owner of the gallery which showcases her work seems to be a little in love with her. Her decision to go to another gallery has upset him. One of the doctors at the hospital might have some ulterior motives;  she does not like her husband’s best friend, Max; and about every other character in the story seems to raise some red flags.

To add to it all, even at times you think Theo may be a suspect. He also has a complicated life since he thought he had a perfect marriage, but now it appears that his wife may be having an affair. The suspense and plot twists continue until almost the last page.

This is Michaelides first book and it is amazing how he puts everything together and comes to a conclusion where it all makes sense. It certainly lives up to its rave review.                      

– C.M.

The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead. Anchor Books 2016. 313 pp.

This is a book of historical fiction about the lives of slaves and how they must have lived, and what the thoughts of those who survived were.

The main character is Cora, but first there is a brief story about how her grandmother was kidnapped from her African village, and how she ended up in Georgia. Cora’s mother, Mabel, disappeared when Cora was eleven or twelve.

When Cora was almost twenty, Caesar, a slave recently from Virginia, tells her that he is planning to escape to the north, and he asks her to come with him. At first she refuses but later agrees to go after being badly beaten.

The two of them escape on the Underground Railroad. According to the author this railroad had mostly tunnels. We know that wasn’t so, but Whitehead felt that would make the story more interesting and vivid. (I had heard him talk about his book on YouTube.)

Cora and Caesar end up in South Carolina, and at first things went very well. Cora even began to learn to read, and she began working in an interesting museum. But then slave catchers appeared, looking for the two of them. A dreadful episode follows. Caesar may have been killed but Cora escapes on the Underground.

Now she is in North Carolina, but it is very different. Of course Georgia and South Carolina were slave states but North Carolina was frightening compared to them. Cora is taken in chains to Tennessee. Then she was rescued by a group of freed slaves and taken to Indiana where she lived happily for a while. At the end of the book Cora leaves Indiana in a covered wagon bound for St. Louis and then, hopefully, for California.

This book won the Pulitzer Prize and several other awards.                           

– P.M.

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