Mental illness can have a tragic impact on families, fostering hurt and misunderstanding. Ahmed Elkashef draws on his background as a psychiatrist in Mrs. Jones, a novel about missed connections and a surprising reunion.
When therapist Melissa and her husband Bob take a vacation in Quebec, they bid on a painting at an art auction. Melissa likes the piece, but Bob finds it eerily familiar. Upon returning home, Melissa works with a well-known local woman, Mrs. Helen Jones, who suffers from bipolar disorder. The moment Mrs. Jones enters Melissa’s office, she, too, is drawn to the painting, and soon reveals a surprising connection to the piece of art and Melissa’s husband.
Elkashef writes in a prologue that this story is based on true-life events. The plot offers a touching premise indeed, but the writing needs polish to make it convincing. Unfortunately, the coincidental nature of events and revelations and the highly staged nature of Helen’s reminiscences (“Helen paused for a while as if she was having a flashback”) make the writing feel inorganic and contrived. There’s a scene set in a therapy group that has some funny dialogue, but it’s isolated and doesn’t connect to the main story, which strikes a more somber and sentimental tone.
Additionally, casual writing errors, such as, “Maybe he did not really understood [sic] her at all,” or mentioning that Helen needs ECT therapy without explaining what that is, also distract readers from the narrative.
Mrs. Jones has an ambitious and laudable goal; stories about the challenges mental illness poses aren’t easy to tell, but they’re necessary to our understanding. For this particular story to hit its mark, however, it requires thorough editing and a degree of restraint in order to keep the drama from tipping over into melodrama.
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