“In most cases, when you challenge a delusion, the patient will be insistent, even to the point of violence. The unusual aspect of Mr. Ward’s illness is that when you challenge his delusions, he readily acknowledges that they are fantasy. Yet out in the world, he behaves as though they were real. That’s a conundrum.” – from The Marriage of True Minds, page 21 –
The Marriage of True Minds opens with Nick Ward dumping 140 live lobsters into the Mayor’s swimming pool (along with salt and ice cubes) to make a statement about the environment. After being transported to an inpatient facility for the mentally ill (along with his stuffed sheepdog puppet Sancho), Nick is visited by his ex-wife Lena (a lawyer) who arrives to represent him. Very quickly, the reader learns that Nick was Lena’s law professor, they married within a short period of time and became partners in a small, environmental law practice. Now, although divorced from Nick, Lena cannot seem to completely detach from him. Nick is a quirky, brilliant, and very funny man whose behavior borders on the bizarre. Not only does he treat his puppet like a person (he prefers to refer to Sancho as an “Imaginary American”), but his empathy for real animals (especially an Irish Wolfhound named Wolfram) makes it difficult for Nick to stay out of criminal court…as a defendant.
The Marriage of True Minds is a whimsical, endearing, laugh-out-loud funny, and ultimately touching novel about the connections we have to others and what defines sanity. Filled with eccentric characters, including a comic-book loving psychiatric attendant and a husband-wife team who run the local animal shelter, the novel moves forward at an unrelenting speed. Evans is skilled at rapid-fire dialogue which captures the wit and brilliance of the characters perfectly. Lena and Nick’s relationship slips back and forth from contrary to loving and provides the tension which drives the story.
Outrageous, but oddly poignant, this novel explores idealism and the fine line between mental illness and activism through the character of Nick – a sweet, gifted man whose love of animals and others drives him to the edge of sanity. The novel is also about what it means to love another despite their flaws.
This is Stephen Evan’s debut novel…and it is a gem. Entertaining and unforgettable, it is highly recommended for those who love literary fiction with memorable and irresistible characters.
FTC Disclosure: This book was sent to me by the publisher for review on my blog.