By Ronald De Feo
(Other Press, Paperback, 9781590515860, 208pp.)
Publication Date: March 5, 2013
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A dark yet often funny novel narrated by a man who, for the past two months, has been a patient at a New York City mental ward. Having suffered a breakdown—due to his shattered marriage and an irrational fear of fading away as a human—he now finds himself caught between two worlds, neither of which is a place of comfort or fulfillment: the world of the ward, where abnormality and an odd sort of freedom reign, and the outside world, where convention and restrictive behavior rule. Finally on his way to becoming reasonably “normal” again, he requests and is granted a “solo pass,” which allows him to leave the (locked) ward for several hours and visit the city, with the promise that he will return to the hospital by evening.
As he prepares for his excursion, we get a picture of the ward he will temporarily leave behind—the staff and the patients, notably Mandy Reid, a schizophrenic and nymphomaniac who has become his closest friend there. Solo Pass is an unsettling satire that depicts, with inverted logic, the difficulties of madness and normalcy.
Ronald De Feo is the author of Calling Mr. King (Other Press). He has written reviews for the New York Times Book Review, The Nation, the New Republic, and the National Review. His short fiction has been published widely in national magazines including the Hudson Review, Massachusetts Review, and North American Review, and he worked for nine years as senior editor at ARTnews. He now serves on the advisory board of Review Magazine, devoted to Latin American and Canadian literature and the arts.
"A quirky, funny tale that forces the reader to question the line between inside and outside, insanity and normalcy, confinement and freedom." -Booklist Online
"Some parts of the book were really quite funny and others were heartbreakingly sad. The characters were all very human and parts of the storyline kept me guessing. I will definitely seek out more from this author." -Reading in Progress
"In this highly engaging novel, Ott presents his version of events, but we are still able to see cracks in the narrative, and eventually a well-formed picture of what really happened emerges...Ultimately, author De Feo shows that the weight of conformity and a desire to belong to a social group can be both a terrible burden, an overwhelming challenge, and oddly enough a liberating choice." -Swiftly Tilting Planet