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Mind Gone Astray
By Wayne Kallio
iUniverse / ISBN: 978-1-44012-116-6
As I've been learning the hard way over the last several years, it can be inherently challenging sometimes to try to objectively review a self-published memoir concerning the true story of a person coping with an overwhelming medical situation; because even though that book may end up being profoundly lacking when it comes to just general literary issues (which frankly, they often are), it's still hard not to feel like a douchebag anyway when giving such books a low score, the intellectual equivalent I suppose of running up to someone in a wheelchair and knocking them over simply out of spite. I was thinking about this a lot, in fact, when reading through Wayne Kallio's Mind Gone Astray, the latest such memoir to show up here at CCLaP headquarters; because even though the story itself it naturally fascinating, and I'm positive will be of legitimate comfort and interest to those going through the same situation, the fact is that the book itself has innumerable problems when it comes to just general literary issues, making it somewhat inappropriate for me to to critique for a general-interest audience, despite my standing promise here to review any book that any person takes the trouble to send in the first place (er, but with some exceptions, of course -- see CCLaP's submission policy for more).
The book is essentially the story of Kallio's wife, who was diagnosed several years ago with schizophrenia; this 250-page memoir, then, is basically the story of how Kallio and other family members dealt with this diagnosis, including the expected hospital visits, the acting-out episodes, the coping mechanisms that worked and those that didn't. And like I said, there's no doubt in my mind that this manuscript will be of enormous benefit to those going through a similar situation, both from a practical standpoint and from simply an opportunity to see someone go through a similar set of emotions (and believe me, I understand these days the importance of reading about people going through similar emotions in the wake of a traumatic medical incident); but also like I said, as a general piece of literature this book is many times profoundly lacking, a manuscript that unfortunately reads much more like an unedited diary than a polished memoir, crammed with way too much banal day-to-day detail to make for a compelling read among a general audience. (Not to mention that Kallio has a bad habit of italicizing all the crazy-sounding things that his wife says, calling way too much attention to such statements within the context of simply trying to read a long-form narrative, an aspect of this book that was already starting to drive me crazy just ten pages in.)
Ultimately what the biggest shame is of a book like Mind Gone Astray is simply its format -- because if this had instead been published as a novella-length electronic book, presenting just the highlights of Kallio's story and perhaps handed out for free at schizophrenia support-group websites, it'd be a fantastic project that I would heartily recommend to anyone in that situation; but as a $21 paperback being marketed to a general audience (and seriously, iUniverse, $21 for a self-published trade paperback?), this book is simply not worth the price, and will unfortunately under such circumstances simply never get into the hands of the people who could most benefit from reading it. It's something I highly encourage all self-publishing amateur authors to seriously ponder; that when it comes to true stories that one writes simply to "get it off their chest," many times such tales are much more appropriate in a shorter form than a longer one, handed out for free as a public service to that community, and not so much as a professional full-length paper book trying to compete with all the Stephen Kings and Michael Chabons of the world. As terrible as this makes me sound, today I can only recommend Mind Gone Astray to those who are also dealing with a family member who's been diagnosed with schizophrenia.
Out of 10: 6.7