This had got to be one of the weirdest books I’ve ever read. And I’ve read a lot of weird shit.
So, this guy named Pepper gets involuntarily committed into a psych ward. In this psych ward, along with a colorful cast of characters that are NOT your typical “loonies with a heart of gold” like you’d expect from such a story, there is also a man with the head of a bison that roams the halls and preys on the patients.
So the book is about the patients trying to take this bison-man out. It’s also about how fucked up mental healthcare is in this country, using this ward as an example. LaValle discusses how protocols are ignored, patients are overmedicated just to shut them up, and how even the nurses who care get broken down in the end. He also includes several real life cases of neglect or even intentional harm to patients in these kinds of facilities. There is also a several page long history about Vincent Van Gogh’s crazy ass.
These book is bizarre, but I kind of loved it. It was impossible to guess what was going to happen next. The pacing of it is really weird, too, in a way that reflects the mental state of Pepper and the other characters. Makes you feel a bit crazy as you read it. I’m looking forward to some of LaValle’s other books, one of which is apparently called Shadowboxing with Jesus.