By Lynn Willoughby
The Shoe on the Roof ~ Will Ferguson
I have enjoyed everything I have ever read by Ferguson, so when this new book appeared on my reading list, I ordered it. What a surprise to me that it is not his usual style of humour, but dark humour, laced with schizophrenia, religion, experimental neurology and an entire medley of mental illnesses. Oh, yes, there is also a murder mystery sub plot!
Thomas has been raised as a “Boy in a Box” – an experiment by his esteemed psychiatrist father. Now at Harvard, Thomas falls in love with Amy and when she breaks it off, Thomas vows he will win her back. He is a doctoral student in experimental psychology so he sets out to cure Amy’s schizophrenic brother, Sebastian, who believes he is Jesus Christ. The plan is that Thomas will confront Sebastian with two other men with “delusions of divinity”. One is a con artist, the other a man living on the street, but both believe THEY are Jesus Christ. They can’t all be God, so Thomas’ goal is to get at least one to admit he is not. What could possible go wrong when you have these three living with you in your apartment?
I really learned a lot from this book, as Ferguson has done extensive research on illness of the mind. For instance, we are born with only three emotions – fear, love and rage. Learned emotions include happiness, sadness, surprise and disgust or variations of same. Our “social” emotions are taught and include envy, shame, guilt and pride.
Ferguson does a masterful job of characterization and dialogue – especially for the three Jesus’. He even managed to make the rather complex lectures, experiments, lab work, books, papers, doctoral work on neurology and just plain psychobabble very readable and entertaining. I was often laughing out loud in some quiet and inappropriate places!
“Addiction is not unlike madness. It is a choice.” I found this idea disturbing, yet refreshing. And while Ferguson writes “Sickness is physical. Crazy is how you act. Crazy is in your control.” I expect he is deliberately stirring the pot and expects a reaction.
This is a good read – not light, but full of unforgettable characters, laughable situations and some psychological insight.
……………….and many others