The Blind

Written by A.F. Brady

Review written by Judith Sullivan

Judith Sullivan is a writer in Leeds, originally from Baltimore. She is working on a crime series set in Paris. Fluent in French, she’s pretty good with English and has conversational Italian and German. She is working to develop her Yorkshire speak.

The Blind
RRP: £12.99
Released: October 5, 2017

Our unreliable—doesn’t-even-begin to cover-it—narrator is one Samantha James, who works as a shrink in the Typhlos Psychiatric Center in New York City. She does one on one counselling with patients whose complaints span a wide gamut. She is overworked and harried and it doesn’t take long for the reader to wonder whether she shouldn’t swap chairs with some of her cases.

She is a good counsellor, but her personal life is more ten-vehicle pile-up on the Cross Bronx Expressway than simple car crash.  Not the kind of the girl guys marry, she is orphaned and solitary though she has a big circle of party pals. She is promiscuous, jealous of her friends’ successes and unmoored in her continuous pursuit of pleasure. She drinks; she smokes; she smokes some more; she eats junk food, then finishes the bottle of red and opens another. Oh and her boyfriend Lucas sometimes beats her when he is not hoovering cocaine up his own nose.

Sam is funny, as well —take the case of the morning she licks the vodka from her mouth on her way to chair an addiction recovery meeting. You get the sense the gallows humor and other coping mechanisms are authentic. Brady, a licensed psychotherapist, knows her psychiatric lingo and sector roadmaps. It is far from pretty but Sam’s turgid journey is made tolerable for the reader thanks to the underlying theme that no matter how crap her world is, Typhlos’ residents have it a heck of a lot worse.

The Blind zeroes in on some of these patients and their colourful back stories and current dilemmas. One in particular is Richard McHugh, recently released from prison where he served decades on a murder rap. He is cryptic and recalcitrant but over the six months of the action in the story they become friends of a kind. Drinking buddies (during their sessions at Typhlos!) and twin souls, who help each other grow and change.

The central mystery and the one that gets Sam out of her own spiral of drunken self-abuse is whether Richard was or was not guilty of the crime that sent him upstate for decades. The facts of the matter, or Richard’s take on them, come out in dribs and drabs sufficient to keep the suspense pending. All this leading up to a surprise (but not: oh-my-I-never-saw-THAT-coming) ending. I did kinda see the twist on the horizon though I did not guess everything.

All in all, a welcome addition to the “damsel in distress of her own making” genre. The Blind stands out for the unusual setting, the sardonic wit and the stratum of kindness and empathy underneath the mountain of deceit and bad behaviour.

In some ways, this could have been The Girl in the Asylum. It is not set on public transport but there are parallels aplenty with Pauline Hawkins’s runaway hit. Self-deluding female thirty-something narrator, booze-soaked and fag-stinking rambles, character roles shifting from viewer to actor and back at dizzying speeds.

I’d venture to say The Blind is more compelling than Girl and deserves to secure wide readership if for nothing else than not having the word girl in the title.

A debut novelist, Brady is one to watch.

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