MANIC WARS by Trina Ann Pion is a raw look at mental illness and how those who suffer from it are poorly treated even in a developed nation. This novel follows Christina Wars, who suffers from bipolar disorder, and her life over the span of about two months in Montreal, Canada. Ms. Pion inflects her own degrading experiences with mental illness and the health and justice systems into the novel. The story illuminates a world of unfairness and distrust to which these patients are subjected.
It is clear from Christina’s first hospitalization that the odds are stacked against her as she navigates the health system. Or, as the story unfolds, the health system dictates what happens to her. Although she’s brought to a hospital against her will, it is for the best because she wrecks her house and is acting irrationally, but she can’t even have a cigarette until she has hounded the staff there.
Also, she’s worried about her children and her future of studying at her university. Her ex-boyfriend Ricky is trying to control her and their children’s lives, and she can’t do anything about it when she’s locked up in a psych ward. Or are these fears part of her disorder? The reader and even Christina aren’t sure.
Next, after Christina is released from the hospital, her mania gets her into trouble again, and she returns. This time the police are involved, and the nightmare only worsens for the protagonist. She is brought back to the same hospital for a short while, but the attitudes of the staff toward her are much different. Why? After an appearance before a judge, Christina is moved to a jail wing for the criminally insane. The conditions can be best described as barbaric. Christina must protect herself from her fellow detainees, who have probably committed worse crimes than what she is charged with, and the manipulative guards during her internal battle with her disorder.
The bulk of the story follows Christina’s stay in this jail, as well as a hospital wing stay afterwards in a notorious prison for the mentally ill. Will she ever be released and go back home? That’s the main problem that Christina and the reader want resolved.
Overall, the story is realistic and debunks many myths surrounding mental illness. Christina is constantly afraid. She fears the doctors, the police, and the guards in the jail. Usually it is the public who are afraid of the mentally ill, be it that the mentally ill are supposed to be dangerous, but this first-person protagonist flips the script. She is constantly afraid that the police will shoot her dead in public, mentioning it throughout the novel. She fears her erratic thoughts will overcome her because she isn’t receiving the correct medicine regimen in jail. And she’s afraid the guards won’t care what happens to her while she’s under their watch. The reader is sympathetic to her plight because many of these fears are real and not part of her disorder.
Although the writing is well-done, the ending is abrupt and leaves the reader wondering what happens next. A sequel would fit in nicely to pick up this cliffhanger at its beginning.
MANIC WARS, published by Jaded Moon Publishing, was released earlier this month and is available on Amazon.