But every hospital, even with patients like these, has at least one inmate who’s weird even for the mental ward.
Patient name: Joe
Date of First Admission: 5 June 1973
Patient’s Age at Time of First Admission: 6
Previous Treatments: Unknown
Current Treatments: Mild antidepressants and sedatives
Treatment Administered By: Nessie, Nursing Director
Diagnosis: Disputed; his “symptoms seemed to mutate unpredictably”
Patient Release Date: N/A
This type of patient is obviously insane, but nobody knows how they got that way. What you do know, however, is that it’ll drive you insane trying to figure it out.
When Dr. Parker H — begins working as a psychiatrist at Connecticut State Asylum he’s young, arrogant and confident he will be able to cure the patient the rest of the staff believe is incurable.
“So, tell me. Why do you want to attempt therapy on an incurable patient?”
Joe has been a patient at CSU for over twenty years and no treatments have worked. It’s gotten to the point where he’s almost entirely isolated due to the fact that the people who attempt to treat him either die by suicide or wind up admitted to CSU themselves.
I’ve also come to a conclusion: Whatever Joe has, I’m sure we can’t cure it. I don’t even think we can diagnose it. It’s obviously not in the DSM.
If it turns out that psychiatry isn’t the answer for this man, then who do we need to call instead?
Mulder and Scully?
Moose and Squirrel?
Dr H — adds instalments of Joe’s story on “a now-defunct web forum for medical professionals” over the course of seven weeks, his own recollections interspersed with physician’s notes. We’re told that all names have been changed.
The first instalment, where Dr H — describes CSU, was interesting but it made me wonder if the narrative was going to end up fairly dry. I needn’t have worried. I soon became hooked, searching the pages for clues that would help me diagnose Joe. I love stories set in asylums so I was probably always going to enjoy this book but I was surprised by how compulsive this read became.
I planned to only read the first entry to get a feel for the book before tackling something that publishes sooner. However, this one ended up jumping the queue and I am already trying to figure out when I will have time for a reread. I’m very grateful to have had the entire story to binge on; it would have frustrated me so much if I’d had to wait for new instalments to become available.
It’s been a couple of days since I finished reading and I want to compare theories with someone. Since I don’t know anyone else who’s read it yet I need to blurt something out here. But, SPOILER AHEAD! I have a theory about the end of the book but it’s based on a spoiler so PLEASE don’t read the next paragraph until you’ve finished the book.
⚠️ I have my suspicions about Jocelyn. I could be entirely off base here but I think she was killed by ‘Joe’ when he attacked her, and he then shapeshifted to become her. I want her pregnancy to result in a creepy human/whatever-Joe-is hybrid so I can hopefully find out more about what Joe actually is in a sequel (if there is one). ⚠️
I’m really hoping for a sequel as I have plenty of unanswered questions and need to know what’s next for Dr H — and Joe. I also need some information about Joe’s sister.
Content warnings include mention of addiction, alcoholism, bullying, death by suicide, domestic violence, mental illness, physical abuse, self harm, sexual assault, suicidal ideation, torture and the violent death of an animal.
Thank you so much to NetGalley and HarperCollins Publishers Australia for the opportunity to read this book.
Bonus Content: A prequel to this book, I used to get letters from my nightmares, was available to read on Reddit at the time I wrote this review. While most parts are available to read on the Reddit website I needed to download the app to read parts 3 and 8 due to sensitive content. While the prequel answered some of my unanswered questions I would recommend you read The Patient first. Had I read the prequel first I would have had a better idea of where Joe’s story was heading and this would have taken away some of the joy of discovery.
Once Upon a Blurb
In a series of online posts, Parker H., a young psychiatrist, chronicles the harrowing account of his time working at a dreary mental hospital in New England. Through this internet message board, Parker hopes to communicate with the world his effort to cure one bewildering patient.
We learn, as Parker did on his first day at the hospital, of the facility’s most difficult, profoundly dangerous case – a forty-year-old man who was originally admitted to the hospital at age six. This patient has no known diagnosis. His symptoms seem to evolve over time. Every person who has attempted to treat him has been driven to madness or suicide.
Desperate and fearful, the hospital’s directors keep him strictly confined and allow minimal contact with staff for their own safety, convinced that releasing him would unleash catastrophe on the outside world. Parker, brilliant and overconfident, takes it upon himself to discover what ails this mystery patient and finally cure him. But from his first encounter with the mystery patient, things spiral out of control, and, facing a possibility beyond his wildest imaginings, Parker is forced to question everything he thought he knew.