Fractured Angel
by Ken Williams
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

BOOK DESCRIPTION: How would you go about trying to help your daughter who, suffering her first psychotic break at fifteen, is chased by her wounded mind to the streets of Santa Barbara? That is the dilemma that Lynne Swanson faces. Out of her element, and definitely out of her comfort zone for this professional woman, she is forced to seek the help of Kerry Wilson, a social worker for the homeless. Unfortunately for her, Kerry is a rough-necked loner that has no inclination to hold the hand of a woman who he feels is out for a lark at the expense of his homeless clients. The harsh and deadly realities of the streets in one of the wealthiest cities in the world and an attempt to close a homeless shelter just as winter sets in produces a dramatic race against time with the life of Lynne’s daughter in the balance.

MY REVIEW: I need to say up front that I only read 15% of this book – so it’s not possible for me to say anything about the whole thing. I really wanted to like this one. As you will see from the book description, the premise looks great, it’s an important contemporary issue, and the author has personal experience with the issue of homelessness.

But after reading the first few chapters I felt very irritated by the writing style. It felt like the author had an agenda – and needed to convince me of what really goes on with the homeless. Now, there’s nothing wrong with that agenda. It’s just that a good novel shouldn’t make me constantly aware of the agenda. Oblique persuasion is always better. The use of language is almost too sophisticated and ingenious for such a raw topic. And things are sometimes explained when the reader should be left to work that out from the story (for example, the daughter hears voices and we’re told, parenthetically, that these are a symptom of her illness – really!?).

In my opinion, the narrative would have been better told in the first person from the perspective of the mother as she enters into this completely foreign world. As a reader, I should experience, the confusion, disorientation, confrontational nature of cultural shock. Instead, the narrator has a “god’s eye view” of everything going on. I’m afraid, it just didn’t work for me.

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