Title: The Red Thread
Author: Bryan Ellis
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Length: 256 Pages
Category: Contemporary, New Adult
At a Glance: We can all use some of the insight this book provided. I just wish the story itself had been a bit more polished.
Reviewed By: Jules
Blurb: After a suicide attempt left him hospitalized for seven months, Jesse Holbrooke is returning home to live with his parents. Despite the treatment he received, his depression hangs like a cloud over his head, casting his life in a perpetual darkness he can’t seem to escape. But just when the obstacles become insurmountable, a glimmer of light appears.
Life hasn’t been easy for Adam Foster, a barista with a bad stutter, but he keeps his chin up and tries not to let the mockery of others get to him. Though shy, Adam is sweet and romantic, and Jesse knows they could be perfect for each other. Adam’s support gives Jesse the courage to face the darkness and believe in the possibility of happiness at last. But if their romance is going to last, both young men will have to look inside and find acceptance—for themselves as well as for each other.
Review: I’ve taken forever to get this review in because I didn’t want to be the dissenting opinion on this book of all books. I think The Red Thread is an important novel—it’s important that stories like this get told, and get told well—and the author’s depiction of depression, and how overwhelmingly all-encompassing it can be, was extremely realistically expressed. I so appreciate Bryan Ellis for giving us Jess’s story. Unfortunately, much of the time the writing style just didn’t work as well for me.
First, I can’t decide if first person was not a good choice for this book, or if it was the perfect choice. I mean, who better than Jess to tell his story, right? His is really the only perspective that counts. Take this passage for example:
“For as long as I’ve known I have never been happy. People look down on me for being sad. Ever since I got out of the hospital, the people in this small town stare at me like I’m some kind of pariah, but are any of these people truly that content with their own lives that they can stick their noses down at me?”
That is just one example of when it feels like maybe it was the right choice; there are many thoughts that make absolute sense coming directly from Jess’s head. But, for obvious reasons, his voice can be dull and flat at times, and if you’re not a fan of first person narratives, especially present tense first person narratives, it can make for sort of a rough read.
I also had an issue with the flow of the story itself. The writing felt choppy in places, and the plot wandered. There were elements that I felt could have been cut out entirely, like a ridiculous shopping trip Jess takes with a co-worker, and some of the scenes driving or sitting around with his friends that simply lent nothing to the story. And, one of my biggest problems with the book was the dialogue, which was so childish and stilted at times. Most of the time, to be honest. In fact, some of the word or phrase choices in general just felt so strange—i.e., what nineteen-year-old you know would use the term ‘mental asylum’? I don’t know anyone in 2016 who would use that term. And Jess uses it a few times. I thought it was odd.
I don’t want to be a complete Negative Nelly, though…there were things that I liked. Jess being one of them. He was honest and real, and I was so moved by him on many occasions. I have immediate family members who suffer from acute anxiety and depression, and there were several things in the story that hit home for me. This in particular:
“When something good begins to happen, my mind must add doubt to the equation, and doubt is always only the beginning. Once doubt is added to any situation it’s like a disease. It starts slowly, and then it makes its way through your body, never ebbing away. But it takes its time, making sure to plant its roots in so deep you can’t pull them out. It poisons your entire blood and soul until you think everything to be false.”
I can’t personally imagine what it’s like for that doubt to constantly take hold, but I see my family going through it a lot. I wish I could take those feelings away for all of them, just as Jess’s family wished they could help him.
And, of course, I also liked Adam. How could you not adore Adam? He was incredibly sweet—and cute in his bowties—and, as the blurb says, he does come along at the perfect time and becomes a bright light for Jess. He makes Jess start to feel ‘normal’, and like he could have a life.
So, there was good mixed in with the not-so-good. There were moments that I think were supposed to be funny—like, wink-wink, nudge-nudge funny—sadly, though, they were just so dry they fell flat. But, then there was this line…
“Trying to pinpoint why I’m depressed is like trying to find the hipster in a room full of the homeless.”
I can almost overlook all the misses for that one great line!
Even though this wasn’t my favorite read, I did get something out of it. It’s always good to walk around in someone else’s shoes, especially when it comes to gaining some understanding about mental illness. We can all use some of the insight this book provided. I just wish the story itself had been a bit more polished.
You can buy The Red Thread here: