THE PATIENT by Jasper DeWitt

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From the publisher:

The Silent Patient by way of Stephen King: Parker, a young, overconfident psychiatrist new to his job at a mental asylum, miscalculates catastrophically when he undertakes curing a mysterious and profoundly dangerous patient.

In a series of online posts, Parker H., a young psychiatrist, chronicles the harrowing account of his time working at a dreary mental hospital in New England. Through this internet message board, Parker hopes to communicate with the world his effort to cure one bewildering patient.

We learn, as Parker did on his first day at the hospital, of the facility’s most difficult, profoundly dangerous case—a forty-year-old man who was originally admitted to the hospital at age six. This patient has no known diagnosis. His symptoms seem to evolve over time. Every person who has attempted to treat him has been driven to madness or suicide.

Desperate and fearful, the hospital’s directors keep him strictly confined and allow minimal contact with staff for their own safety, convinced that releasing him would unleash catastrophe on the outside world. Parker, brilliant and overconfident, takes it upon himself to discover what ails this mystery patient and finally cure him. But from his first encounter with the mystery patient, things spiral out of control, and, facing a possibility beyond his wildest imaginings, Parker is forced to question everything he thought he knew.

Fans of Sarah Pinborough’s Behind Her Eyes and Paul Tremblay’s The Cabin at the End of the World will be riveted by Jasper DeWitt’s astonishing debut.


A well-done horror story written in a low-key style guaranteed to build up the terror using the first-person narrative by the principal character. A newly graduated psychiatrist, Parker takes his first job at a mental institution in the state of Connecticut. He is determined to help the patients assigned to him to the best of his ability. On the first day at his new job, Parker becomes aware of Joe, a 40-year-old patient, that has been there since he was six years of age. There is no working diagnosis for the man and several previous doctors have come to grief in vain efforts to cure him.

Parker sees a challenge in effecting a treatment for Joe and manages to work himself into the position of handling his treatment. During his first session with the patient, Parker comes to the conclusion that Joe is apparently normal and suspects that he is being held at the hospital because his parents continue to pay for his care. Acting on his own conclusion Parker confronts the medical staff at the institution questioning the years of poor diagnosis. He also visits Joe’s parents and with the help of the mother, completes an inspection of the house, and particularly the boy’s bedroom.

Parker’s findings provide an answer to the reason Joe has been diagnosed as mentally ill. DeWitt’s description of the cause introduces a unique answer that certainly delves deeply into a nightmare world and makes the ending as gripping as can be. A short book but certainly one that presents the author as a literary force to be reckoned with causing the reader to certainly look for succeeding novels by him.

7/2020 Paul Lane

THE PATIENT by Jasper DeWitt. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (July 7, 2020). ISBN: 978-0358181767. 224 pages.

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