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Posts Tagged ‘developmental disabilities’

DANTE’S WOOD by Lynne Raimondo: Book Review

A recently blinded psychiatrist, a young man with severe developmental disabilities, and a dysfunctional married couple all come together to provide Lynn Raimondo’s fascinating debut novel, Dante’s Wood

Mark Angelotti was a successful psychiatrist in New York before some bad decisions and one tragic event forced him to leave that city and relocate to Chicago.  No one at his new hospital knows anything about his personal background, only his outstanding professional abilities, so it’s a chance for him to start over.

Two years after Mark arrives in Chicago, he is diagnosed with Leber’s Hereditary Optic Neuropathy, a gene mutation passed on from mother to son.  He gradually loses the sight in one eye, then a few weeks later in the other.  By incredible determination and hard work, he manages to learn Braille (very difficult to do after adolescence) and to relearn the many other things that he must do to have a normal life:  cook, travel alone via public transportation, dress himself.

Now that thirteen months have passed since the onset of his disease, Mark is back at work.  In his own words, he is “the same arrogant, uncaring, self-deceptive bastard I’d always been.”

His supervisor assigns him a case involving Charlie Dickerson, the eighteen-year-old son of a fellow physician at the hospital.  Charlie has Fragile X syndrome, the leading cause of mental retardation, and has the I.Q. of a six to nine year old.  His mother Judith believes that Charlie is being sexually abused by one of the staff members at the adolescent day care facility he attends, while his father Nate says he doesn’t believe this, and that is one of the many things about which this couple cannot agree.

After talking to Charlie, Mark believes he has found the answer to the issues that made his parents bring him to the psychiatrist, and the problem seems resolved.  Six months pass, and although Mark’s prowess in handling his blindness has improved, his mental state has not.  He feels as if his judgments are off, that he’s missing something.  His supervisor wonders if he has forced Mark to come back to work too soon, but Mark insists that that’s not the problem.  He’s just working things through.

Then he receives a call from the Dickersons.  Charlie has been arrested for murdering a staff member at his day care facility.  And yes, it’s the woman Judith Dickerson thought had been molesting him.

Mark is a very interesting character.  He’s bright, dedicated, and determined to live as close to a normal life as possible, all of which are admirable qualities.  But he has a secret that is tormenting him, not allowing him to be open and share his life with anyone.

And then, when Charlie is arrested, it makes even his professional abilities open to question.  Given his lack of a personal life, and the secret he has been holding onto since his move from Manhattan, if he loses his license to practice medicine he feels he will have nothing left.

The author’s description of Mark’s inner turmoil and his determination to get his life back on track make for a compelling novel.  I’m looking forward to the second in the Mark Angelotti series.

You can read more about Lynne Raimondo at this web site.

Check out the complete Marilyn’s Reads blog at this web site.