Neshama’s Choices for May 27

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The Center Cannot Hold by Elyn R. Saks

Subtitled My Journey Through Madness. Symptoms appeared when she was quite young but didn’t erupt acutely until she was at college where she was seized by terrifying, crippling, dangerous hallucinations. Since this happened in England, she had relatively good care and even found a wonderful psychoanalyst who worked with her very effectively.  When she managed to graduate with high honors (she’s brilliant), she returned to the States to go to law school. Here mental hospitals used restraints and gave patients no agency. One ongoing problem: she thought that using medication was a sign of weakness and kept trying to get off it with disastrous results. Now she’s an esteemed professor with a rewarding life and wrote this book to give hope to others. Extremely candid, vivid, beautifully written, and inspiring.

The Mysterious Case of the Alperton Angels by Janice Hallett

In this intriguing mystery, Amanda, who writes about true crime, is looking for a juicy subject. She comes across an old case in which a cult deemed a newborn baby the Antichrist, and their actions resulted in a grotesque bloodbath. The mother and baby disappeared 18 years ago and if Amanda could track them down, what a coup! Another crime writer has a similar book in the works.  Eventually, despite their rivalry, they join forces, but things start to get dangerous for them.  Where are the threats coming from after all this time? Hallett gives us dispatches from many sources, including WhatsApp messages, emails, newspaper articles, and transcriptions of interviews. The latter is especially interesting because the transcriptionist, Ellie, drops in comments that seem spot on. Disturbing yet entertaining, with many twists and turns.

The Djinn Waits A Hundred Years by Shubnum Khan

Young Sana and her father move into a very strange boarding house in a dilapidated mansion known as Akbar Manzil.  Ghosts abound, and many rooms are littered with artifacts that offer clues to its history which Sana avidly pursues. The current denizens of the house are eccentric characters. The djinn who haunts the crumbling manse is connected to the original tragedy which centers around Meena whom Akbar takes as a second wife. He’s the sugar magnate who built the house and populated the grounds with exotic animals. His English wife is outraged by the marriage, and Akbar’s domineering mother adds to the domestic tensions. Setting: South Africa.  An intense and atmospheric tale.

Flores and Miss Paula by Melissa Rivero

Mother Paula and daughter Flores live together in Brooklyn, mourning the death of Martin who was Paula’s husband and Flores’s father. The family has roots in Peru. Flores moved back home when her 7-year relationship fell apart. An old friend gives her a job in his startup company which had a meteoric rise but is now foundering. Intrigue and power struggles cloud the working environment. Paula gets a part-time job at the neighborhood Dollabilll store which helps lighten her ongoing grief. Long-held secrets build tensions at home. Both women eventually find their paths and make the changes that will enable them to go forward. Snarky descriptions of “cool” startup culture add color, along with sprinklings of untranslated Spanish phrases and some mystical rituals from the old country.