From the publisher:
Germany, 1934. Rigmor, a young Jewish woman is a patient at Sonnenstein, a premier psychiatric institution known for their curative treatments. But with the tide of eugenics and the Nazis’ rise to power, Rigmor is swept up in a campaign to rid Germany of the mentally ill.
USA, 1984. Sabine, battling crippling panic and depression commits herself to McLean Hospital, but in doing so she has unwittingly agreed to give up her baby. Linking these two generations of women is Inga, who did everything in her power to help her sister, Rigmor. Now with her granddaughter, Sabine, Inga is given a second chance to free someone she loves from oppressive forces, both within and without.
This is a story about hope and redemption, about what we pass on, both genetically and culturally. It is about the high price of repression, and how one woman, who lost nearly everything, must be willing to reveal the failures of the past in order to save future generations. With chilling echoes of our time, Where Madness Lies is based on a true story of the author’s own family.
The author couples a story about generational mental Illness and the focused evil perpetrated by Hitler and the Nazi party during the years prior to WWII and afterward. It begins in 1934 with Rigmor a young Jewish girl being cared for at a leading German psychiatric institution. The Nazi party just taking power has introduced the concept of eugenics as a means of cleansing the population of persons deemed tainted by mental illness and other features indicated as not being pure enough to exist in Germany. Inga, Rigmor’s sister takes a hand in helping her avoid being exterminated.
In 1984 Massachusetts in the U.S. Inga again rises to help another member of her family; her granddaughter Sabine. Sabine has committed herself to a mental institution suffering through crippling panic attacks and horrific states of depression. She is pregnant and the law indicates that in order to leave the hospital she must give up her baby. She finds that medicines developed are allowing her to cope with her maladies and is ready to leave the hospital when stopped by the probability of giving up her baby. Sylvia True pulls no punches in her writings.
The Nazis executing people they deem unfit to live in Germany and an unreasoning law in Massachusetts allowing a doctor to take away a woman’s baby without further recourse are linked together in terms of harm done by the authority to those that are suffering from mental illness. Descriptions of the politics prevalent in 1934 Germany and in 1984 Massachusetts are discussed as causes of what is described, but the novel is first and foremost about the devastation of mental illness in a family and the possibility that it will not stop at affecting only one generation. True does indicate that the story has a basis in the history of her own family which may have allowed her to present the cases so eloquently. A novel very different from most that I have read due to showcasing scenarios that are not that commonly written about in novels. One that does indicate an author that is well worthwhile looking for in the near future.
3/2021 Paul Lane
WHERE MADNESS LIES by Sylvia True. Top Hat Books (February 1, 2021). ISBN: 978-1789044607. 344 pages.