All in the Mind
Alastair Campbell
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Buy *All in the Mind* by Alastair Campbell online

All in the Mind
Alastair Campbell
Overlook
Hardcover
448 pages
June 2009
rated 4 of 5 possible stars

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Martin Sturrock feels as though heís losing his mind. Surely anyone who felt that way would seek psychiatric treatment. The problem lies in the fact that Martin Sturrock is the best psychiatrist in all of London. What happens when our mental health providers find themselves in the midst of a possible breakdown? Who does the best psychiatrist turn to when his own psyche is in danger? You will walk away from All in the Mind asking these questions and many more. Set in contemporary London, Alastair Campbellís debut novel raises more questions than it answers in a devastating show of real emotion, perseverance, and a raw glimpse at the turmoil within the human mind.

Patients are referred to Sturrock when it is known that they need the best of the best. Emily Parks was severely burned in an apartment fire, leaving her with disfiguring scars and a crushed spirit. Once completely homebound because of her appearance, she now makes her way downtown to Sturrockís office for her weekly visits. When Dr. Sturrock recommends that she venture outside for a walk in broad daylight, will she find her way into the light or fall deeper into her darkness?

Arta Mehmeti was raped in her home while her young daughter was held hostage in the kitchen - this after she fled to London from Kosovo to avoid such dangers. She dreams of her attacker nearly every night, waking in terror. She hasnít had an intimate encounter with her husband since the attack. What happens when the good doctor suggests she forgive her attackers, freeing herself of their hold? Will she find forgiveness or only more anger?

David Temple is clinically depressed, fighting his way out of ďplunges,Ē times when he canít seem to find the will to get out of bed. Dr. Sturrock has brought him through the all the darkest moments in their time together, even making a housecall when David was at his worst. What happens when Dr. Sturrock finds himself falling into his own plunge, a place that only David can understand? Will he reach out for a knowing hand or suffer in silence to maintain his own personal code of conduct?

Ralph Hall is Londonís Minister of Health. Heís also an alcoholic. He sees Dr. Sturrock undercover, hiding his addiction from everyone. Itís clear that Ralph is in a spiral; the only question is when and where the inevitable crash will occur. Will Ralphís addiction ruin his career, or will he manage to hold it together until his time in Parliament is over?

Hafsatu Sesay is a former prostitute, living in a safehouse in London and trying to get her life together. After breaking the bonds of her sex slavery, she started seeing Dr. Sturrock for help finding herself again. Under normal circumstances, Sturrock would be the perfect doctor for her. Sturrockís circumstances just arenít normal. Instead, he finds himself strangely attracted to Hafsatu, longing to know what her touch might feel like. Will Dr. Sturrock refer her to a new psychiatrist or keep her to himself? Will he cross the line of professional conduct, potentially destroying his marriage and career in the process?

If youíve ever passed someone walking into a psychiatristís office and wondered about their condition, this is the book for you. There is voyeurism in it, plain and true. We see inside the minds of not only Dr. Sturrockís patients but Dr. Sturrock himself. All in the Mind is slow-moving at times, but every last word is important to the end. If reading it for no other reason, read it for the end. I literally gasped in surprise when I reached the apex of the storyline. For the last fifty pages alone, the novel is worth every second it takes to read it.

That said, if youíre the type of reader who needs to see every last conflict sorted, every storyline tied up in a neat little bow, maybe All in the Mind isnít for you. It will indeed leave you with more questions than answers, more to think about than when you started. This is not a light read, not one that will leave you feeling all sparkly and new inside when itís over. Itís the kind that will make you call up your loved ones and tell them how much they mean to you, maybe even look inside yourself to see if you have any of your own demons to face to avoid a plunge of your own.

Bottom line: All in the Mind is a brilliant debut. Campbell is an exceedingly talented author who knows how to weave a story, and his weave is tight; that kind of quality takes time to build up. The slow and easy pace is rewarded with a few moments of utter shock, moments that Campbell does amazingly well. Perhaps one of the best things about All in the Mind is that it doesnít fit into any niche at all. Itís all on its own, and it stands out beautifully. Campbellís storytelling is beyond reproach. Itís good to know there is still fiction that can make us all think.



Originally published on Curled Up With A Good Book at www.curledup.com. © Amanda Lewis, 2009

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