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by Joan Abelove
Puffin, 1999
Review by Christian Perring, Ph.D. on Nov 11th 2001

Saying It Out LoudThis short novel about Mindy, a sixteen-year-old Jewish girl whose mother dies of a brain tumor in the 1960s is based on the author's experience. Many of the details place it very much in that time period, and it feels as almost as dated as novel set in the 1860s. I doubt that most sixteen-year-olds today would have heard of the novel Peyton Place, and few have probably seen the movie Spartacus. They may have heard of the House Un-American Activities Committee, but that's probably ancient history to them. So young people reading this book may have to do some searching on the Internet to understand some of the references here.

The essential idea, though, is easy to grasp. Mindy's mother becomes ill, goes to hospital, returns home, returns to hospital, gradually loses touch with the outside world, and passes away. Mindy's conservative and distant father is very preoccupied by his work and his wife's illness, and Mindy has to fend for herself, basically living on her own during this crisis. She is kept in the dark about what is happening, and she is confused and unhappy. The last time she visits her mother in hospital, after the tumor has been removed, her mother does not recognize her at all. While her body is still alive, Mindy feels that her mother has already gone, in spirit. Why didn't anyone tell her?

It's a well-written story that, despite the references to forty-year old culture, may still speak to some. By today's standards, Mindy seems naïve in some ways, (she hasn't even started to date), and in other ways, far more earnest and thoughtful than most of her peers would be today. Her feelings of confusion, loss, love, and anger are clear and seem real, as does her relationship with Gail, her best friend, who helps her through this difficult time in her life.

© 2001 Christian Perring. First Serial Rights.

Christian Perring, Ph.D., is Chair of the Philosophy Department at Dowling College, Long Island. He is editor of Metapsychology Online Review. His main research is on philosophical issues in psychiatry. He is especially interested in exploring how philosophers can play a greater role in public life. He is available to give talks on many philosophical or controversial issues in mental health.