Robert Jacoby’s book opens with Richard Issych, a nineteen year old who wakes up on a bed in a strange environment unable to move. As his mind becomes clearer, he realizes that he is being restrained quite possibly in an emergency room. The depressed young man then remembers that he tried to commit suicide by taking over seventy Quaaludes, and trying not to panic, he demands help as he wants to live. A doctor reassures him that he is doing his best to help him. He later discovers that he is being held for observation in a mental ward, and will not be able to leave until his assigned doctor is convinced that he won’t repeat his actions. This strange environment if foreign to Richard, and he has to learn how things work such as being told when to eat, and to line up for his medication. During his stay he befriends others including Phillip, his roommate, who is on his third visit, Vic, another young man around his age, as well as women like Susie and Red. As he gets to know these strange people, who all have problems of their own, he finds the one thing that they all have in common is that they all tried to hurt themselves, as Richard is constantly asking his new friends, what are you in for? After meeting with his doctor, who tells Richard that his treatment may include electro shock therapy, Richard then is determined to somehow find a way to escape his new prison. Daily activities include playing games, watching television, and every so often, a field trip is taken along with the men in white coats, the so-called muscle, who handle unruly patients, so nurses won’t have to. He finds a way to call his parents, and they do visit him. The setting reminded me of One Flew over the Cuckoo’s nest, but not as intense. Jacoby does provide some surprises in the book.
This book is an easy read (I was able to finish it in just a few days) thanks to the author, who keeps you interested in the characters surrounding Richard, as well as Richard’s own dilemma of wanting to be free of his surroundings, and just to return to his parents home, who wonders if it is possible to become normal again. Does Richard improve? Is he allowed to go home? You will have to read this book and find out for yourself. You get the answers to these questions, but they made not be the answers that you expected. I highly recommend reading this fast paced and exciting book.