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BookBrowse Reviews The Blind by A.F. Brady

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The Blind

A Chilling Psychological Suspense

by A.F. Brady

The Blind by A.F. Brady X
The Blind by A.F. Brady
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  • First Published:
    Sep 2017, 416 pages
    Paperback:
    Jul 2018, 400 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Kate Braithwaite
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This debut novel explores what happens if there is only a thin line separating a psychiatrist from her patient.

In The Blind, A. F. Brady, a licensed psychotherapist, takes readers inside a residential psychiatric facility in Manhattan and into the world of group therapy and borderline personality disorder (see Beyond the Book).

Sam James is the Typhlos institution's star therapist, the go-to psychologist able to find breakthroughs with the most challenging patients. But when the story opens, Sam is already in crisis, throwing up in the office trash can after an alcohol binge the night before. She may manage to maintain a professional front, but in reality Sam is dealing with many personal struggles and she shares them all on the page, no holds barred.

At first it seems that Sam is on a downhill spiral that she won't be able to escape. She is in a physically abusive relationship with her boyfriend, Lucas, while engaging in casual sex with another man. She has an alcohol problem and seems hell-bent on alienating her best friend and ally, fellow psychologist David. Unable to maintain her façade during a routine annual assessment of her own mental health – something all staff participate in – Sam fears the only good thing in her life, her career, is at risk. Her best hope for a turnaround might be the therapy sessions she conducts with a difficult new patient, Richard. For reasons unknown, Richard seems as determined to save Sam as she is to save him.

The Blind succeeds largely because of the protagonist's fresh, sarcastic and bitingly witty voice. Sam spares herself no criticism and is equally harsh with the people around her. She sums up her boss, Rachel, as "a linebacker...a formidable presence...born to run an institution, and her lack of a private life really helps her excel at her job." Rachel's appearance — "chinos that are too tight in the hips that it makes the slash pockets stick out like little ears" — also bears the brunt of Sam's close observation.

This level of detail spills through into other areas which makes the novel hard to read at times. The abuse Sam suffers at her boyfriend's hands is graphic, almost clinically described. It is in keeping with her voice and character, but not for the faint of heart. While Sam's good qualities keep the reader agreeing that she does deserve "a boyfriend who buys me Manolo Blahniks and takes me to dinner at The Four Seasons," there are a few bleak moments in her story that even the greatest fans of black humor may find challenging.

Early on, Sam acknowledges that there is a fine line between the patients with mental health problems and the staff at Typhlos. "We're no different from them. There's no line in the sand. In the end, we don't have canyons that divide us. We barely have a fissure. I have a key to the office and they don't." As the novel progresses, a theme emerges: Does personal experience with a problem help a therapist be more effective? Brady hints that if this line has been crossed – if a drug counselor has had his or her own drug problems for example – then the therapist might be able to be more effective than another person with no personal experience to bring to bear. As Sam and her patient Richard find out more about each other, this intriguing and controversial question makes The Blind a satisfying psychological read.

Reviewed by Kate Braithwaite

This review was originally published in The BookBrowse Review in October 2017, and has been updated for the August 2018 edition. Click here to go to this issue.

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