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A debut novel (95,000k, upmarket fiction), Mary’s Quest, a true family story of a sister’s pledge to restore honor to her disgraced brother, sheds light on an obscure corner of World War II history and the unsung heroism of pacifists that labored and languished in state mental asylums. While a just war rages abroad, another one is waged on the Homefront, not with tanks and planes but principle and heart.

One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest meets Hacksaw Ridge when a Philadelphia Army recruit’s fidelity to non-violence over duty to country lands him in a notorious asylum and sends his life into a downward spiral witnessed through the naïve eyes of his younger sister Mary. Ed is Mary’s rock. When he disappears behind the walls of a mental hospital, it tilts Mary’s world. She grows up and tries to get on with her own life, only to find it framed by his absence, and troubling questions fueled by family secrecy and shame. What caused her beloved brother’s inexplicable downfall, and will Ed ever be returned to family and normalcy? How can Mary get on with her own life while the brother she looks up to remains locked away? In the years following his institutionalization, Mary vows to restore her brother’s honor, following clues like breadcrumbs on a dark trail to the truth.

Managed by corrupt administrators and unskilled, abusive staff, the asylum is a land of horrors. Ed roams a roach-infested dayroom with feces-smeared walls packed with naked and shackled inmates. Foggy-headed and terrified, the pacifist fends off attacks and tries to protect his vulnerable young friend Joseph. If Ed can escape and make the shocking conditions known to the parish priest, he is sure help will arrive and injustice rectified. Edward’s plot foiled and his dilemma worsened, he warms to Walter who works as a hospital attendant. Along with a handful of other likeminded and earnest COs, Walter plans to sneak out damning evidence to Life magazine to get the attention of Mrs. Roosevelt and blow the lid off the place. Ed joins in, but to do his part he must rely on Mary, his faithful visitor, to deliver his sketches of hospital atrocities to the parish priest. Can Ed survive incarceration while holding on to his humanity? Will justice be served and Ed finally exonerated?

 

Similar to Susan Meissner’s The Last Year of the War, Mary’s Quest explores an obscure corner of World War II history through the eyes of a naïve observer whose life is tilted by a distant war in unexpected ways. Although Mary is too young to “rescue” the lost brother she loves, her quest to reclaim and honor him echoes T. Greenwood’s inspiring, heart-rending account of the horrors of institutionalization and the balm of family devotion in Keeping Lucy. Fans of Anthony Doerr’s All the Light You Cannot See will root for Mary and Edward and appreciate the parallel stories in Mary’s Quest and how they are weaved together.

 

 

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