Blue Asylum: New review and GIVEAWAY

I have never read anything by Kathy Hepinstall, but was happy to win a copy of her latest novel, Blue Asylum, from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Set in an insane asylum in the Civil War south, I predicted a perfect summer beach chair read. And I was not wrong, but I was thrilled to discover that Hepinstall added a number of genius layers, elevating Blue Asylum beyond predictable historical fiction.

Iris Dunleavy, a seemingly proper Virginia plantation wife has been committed by a judge for some mysterious wrongdoing against her husband. The author unveils that back story slowly while we come to meet the patients/inmates trapped on the island which houses the asylum.  Because the narrator’s voice alternates between Iris, the asylum’s doctor, his son, and another patient, you view the characters from a variety of viewpoints.

Ambrose killed his first man in filtered sunlight.”

Does this make him crazy? Can Iris save him? Can the doctor? Can he save himself? Hepinstall does not try to answer every question. Instead she follows the natural storyline of alliances and adversaries when all participants are help in captivity. Irish and Doctor have an especially contentious relationship.

They had engaged in what could not be called treatment or even discussion, but open combat, the two of them a microcosm of the great war raging in the far distance: one side that desired autonomy, and the other that took independence as a sign of madness.”

Of course, setting her story during the Civil Way, Hepinstall is telling a bigger story about captivity and the quest for freedom. Sometimes she makes that point in an obvious way, and sometimes she works subtly and brilliantly.

The doctor wished the lamb had never been brought to the island. He hadn’t missed it, not until it came and went. Now every other meat was going to taste like not-lamb before it tasted like chicken or pig or beef or fish.”

Overall, she handles the subject and story beautifully, making Blue Asylum a terrific summer read.

So now for the GIVEAWAY!!!

Since this book was sent to me as a prize, I want to do the same for one lucky reader. Just comment on this post for your chance to win.

Want a second chance? Those of you on Twitter can copy and paste this tweet

Who doesn’t love a freebie? Enter for a chance to win BLUE ASYLUM from @AlenaMurguia

— on your feed and I’ll put your name in the hat a second time.

I’ll pick a winner on Friday, June 29, 2012.

Good luck and thanks for participating in my first giveaway. Follow this blog for more giveaways to come.