Reviewed by Viga Boland for Readers' Favorite
If you’re unfamiliar with schizophrenia and how it affects a person, The Unraveling of Brendan Meeks by Brian Cohn will both fascinate and frighten you. This first novel by Cohn sucks you into Brendan’s chaotic mind within the first few sentences: Brendan is running; he’s frantic; he’s positive they…whoever “they” are…are out to get him. The voices keep telling him they want to kidnap him and rob him of his mind, and he’s hell-bent on making sure they don’t succeed. But strong arms overpower him and the running is over. For now. Back on his meds, Brendan’s panic, paranoia and voices are temporarily subdued. But when he learns his beloved sister, Wendy, the only one he feels ever truly loved him has been murdered, Brendan needs to think clearly, and his meds don’t allow that. So he stops taking them long enough to start piecing together just who murdered his sister and why. What Brendan discovers threatens to completely unglue him permanently, surprises readers, and makes for a thriller that has us holding our breaths as we turn the pages, trying to solve the murder alongside Brendan, a pretty nurse, a therapist who understands the voices in a schizophrenic mind, and the one and only police officer he feels he can trust.
What a gripping debut novel from Brian Cohn. What makes this novel such a riveting read is much more than the well-drawn characters like Brendan’s upper-class, biological parents: his bossy, insensitive mother and his despicable, lily-livered father, or Brendan’s adopted family: an army vet with PTSD, a sad meth addict and her supplier, and Brendan himself. It’s more than the fast-paced plot with unexpected twists. It’s how well Brian Cohn has captured the panicked workings and controlling voices of Brendan’s schizophrenic mind. As Brendan races to find Wendy’s killer, not knowing whom to trust, but intelligent enough to consider all possibilities, Brendan’s panic is palpable: we feel our hearts racing; we become as terrified and paranoid as he is. We begin to wonder about the voices we sometimes hear in our own, non-schizophrenic minds and we realize the only difference between Brendan and us is that we manage to control, even ignore those voices. Without his meds, Brendan cannot ignore or control those voices which denigrate him and encourage him to do the unspeakable. If nothing else, readers will come away from The Unraveling of Brendan Meeks with an increased awareness of, and sensitivity to those afflicted by this unfortunate mental disease. Well done, Brian Cohn! The Unraveling of Brendan Meeks is a great start to your writing career. Bring on more: your fans await your next book.