My grateful thanks to Lucy Chamberlain at Legend Press for an advanced reader copy of The Wacky Man by Lyn G. Farrell in return for an honest review. Published on 2nd May 2016, The Wacky Man is available for purchase here.
Amanda sits isolated in the detritus of her room, self harming and pulling out her hair one strand at a time.
I don’t want to write a review of this remarkable book. I just want to repeat the word ‘stunning’ several times. Stunning, stunning, stunning.
I have no idea whether Lyn G. Farrell is writing from her own experiences, but her background in psychology certainly adds depth, credibility and authenticity to this outstanding read.
The narrative is split into Amanda’s first person dialogue with the reader that is set in the present day and a third person, chronological, present historic that describes her life so that the reader understands completely and harrowingly why and how Amanda behaves as she does. This is a study in mental health, domestic abuse, identity and utterly heartbreaking realism.
Those of us who have had the luxury of a stable and happy childhood and who haven’t suffered mental health problems will be educated by The Wacky Man. Lyn G. Farrell lays bare the suffering and consequences for those living in abusive and violent households in a way that defies the reader’s escape. Although much of the story is uncomfortable to read as Seamus rules the home with fear and hatred, it is impossible to put down The Wacky Man. My life was on hold while I read it, totally enthralled. The quality of the writing is breathtaking. Amanda’s self loathing is so well described that I felt I understood better the whole of humanity and not just a character in a book.
I must also mention the title which ostensibly refers to a colloquial term for the truant officer, but obviously refers also to the physical violence of Amanda’s father Seamus (and that of his extended family and personal experience too) as well as Seamus’ own mental health issues. To describe him as wacky is generous, but again the reader can understand how he behaves as he does. Other references include the psychiatrists Amanda is presented to who universally fail to help her.
The cover image too reflects the overall quality of the book. The image reminds me of Rorschach tests used in psychological assessment as well as suggesting that Amanda has blotted her copy book in her unsympathetic schools. It also put me in mind of the mould and dirt she describes in her home as she and her mother fall apart emotionally.
The Wacky Man is not going to be a comfortable read for all, but it is a book that deserves the highest possible praise. I can see it being one of my books of the year in 2016. I thought it was superb.
The Wacky Man
The Wacky Man was winner of the Luke Bitmead Bursary.
My new shrink asks me, ‘What things do you remember about being very young?’ It’s like looking into a murky river, I say. Memories flash near the surface like fish coming up for flies. The past peeps out, startles me, and then is gone…
Amanda secludes herself in her bedroom, no longer willing to face the outside world. Gradually, she pieces together the story of her life: her brothers have had to abandon her, her mother scarcely talks to her, and the Wacky Man could return any day to burn the house down. Just like he promised.
As her family disintegrates, Amanda hopes for a better future, a way out from the violence and fear that has consumed her childhood. But can she cling to her sanity, before insanity itself is her only means of escape?
About Lyn G. Farrell
Lyn G. Farrell is the winner of the 2015 Luke Bitmead Bursary and The Wacky Man is her debut novel.
Lyn grew up in Lancashire where she would have gone to school if life had been different. She spent most of her teenage years reading anything she could get her hands on.
She studied Psychology at the University of Leeds and now works in the School of Education at Leeds Beckett University.