Piece of Mind, by Michelle Adelman (2016)

Contemporary Fiction
Piece of MindThanks to a collision with a truck when she was three years old that left her with a brain injury, 27-year-old Lucy struggles with basic “executive functions” like planning, knowing left from right, or remembering to feed the cat. This means she can’t hold down a job or drive a car, and she is incredibly messy, refusing to throw anything away. She lives with her Dad, who helps out by giving her daily to do lists that include getting showered and dressed. Lucy spends her days watching television and drawing, ignoring Dad’s constant urging to apply for jobs. When circumstances force Lucy to leave her home, her younger brother Nate takes her in. He lives in a studio apartment in New York City, where he’s been going to school. He gives up his studies to support them both. But Nate doesn’t leave Lucy helpful notes, instead working long hours that leave her largely on her own. He also insists she look for work. Lucy finds herself exploring her neighbourhood, which happily includes the Central Park Zoo where she can indulge her fascination with polar bear Gus. She crosses paths with several characters as she learns to navigate the world, all of them challenging her to push herself beyond what she thinks she is capable of. Lucy is a funny, quirky, and fascinating person, and I really enjoyed her perspective on the world, and her own self. According to author Adelman’s acknowledgements, she modeled Lucy’s brain on that of her sister, Caren, which likely contributed greatly to the authenticity of Lucy’s voice. But I am struck by the lack of any reference to occupational therapy for Lucy (either past or present). It was also a niggling concern that more than one character told Lucy to stop leaning on her injured brain as an excuse. Sure, Lucy needs some pushing to get her moving, but that’s her circumstance. It’s not the case for all brain-injured folks. ‘Nuff said. Other than that, I thoroughly enjoyed Lucy, and her relationship with her brother Nate. Lucy learns to be more accepting of others’ faults even as she develops the courage to strive for her own goals. I also loved the little sketches that populate the story, done by Adelman’s sister as well. Pretty awesome. My thanks to publisher W.W. Norton for the advance reading copy provided through NetGalley in exchange for my honest review.
More discussion and reviews of this novel: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/25622856


About Michelle Mallette
I'm just trying to keep track of the books I've read - what I liked and what isn't worth re-reading. My work as a librarian has included youth services so you'll find a wide range of interests from picture books and teen dystopia to adult sci-fi, road trip novels, and nonfiction. Comments and communication is always welcome.

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