Growing up under the burden of a schizophrenic mother, 23-year-old Neil Kapoor (protagonist and narrator) has never had an ordinary life. His mother has been in and out of the hospital for her mental illness and it’s wearing on him and his father. He finds some escape in his theater classes, where he meets Emily, Quincy, and Tim. As these new relationships grow and become more complicated, Neil finds himself struggling more and more to balance his new life with his sense of familial duty. It’s impossible for him to share his secrets with his girlfriend, even while she is open with him about her own life and struggles. Soon the burden of responsibility of his mother may fall to him, so Neil needs to sort out what is more important to him – the new life he has created or his family.
It was difficult for me to decide what to think about this book. It’s honest and brutal and well-written, but sometimes seems to lack direction. What’s more, I felt little empathy with any of the book’s characters, except for Neil’s tired, beaten-down father. However, it really is a vivid and wonderfully written book. It’s quite dark and at times the characters seem completely helpless, but the author gives them (and the reader) enough hope to get by. This is Majumdar’s first novel, and I hope to see more from him in the future.
A small piece of criticism is that at times Majumdar’s eloquent writing is sometimes brutally interrupted by, what seems to me, unnecessary crassness. A beautiful scene will suddenly be broken by a description of Neil’s girlfriend’s “pussy,” a not at all attractive word. I have little objection to curse words, but “pussy” is just a horrible word in my opinion. It’s a jarring distraction in the context of the rest of the writing. Neil is a generally a gentle and caring person, and “pussy” is not a gentle or caring word (unless we’re talking about a cat…which in this case, we’re not).
Recommended for those who like dark and honest books, but don’t want to be utterly depressed by what they read. It’s not a long book, only 300 pages, and easy to get through.
The Isolation Door is available today from Ravana Press.