Reviewed by Roger M. Woodbury for Readers' Favorite
"Ward 2 South" is Terri M. Mitchell's first attempt at fiction. Drawing on her professional credentials and experience as a psychiatric social worker, Ms Mitchell draws eloquent word pictures of the mentally ill patients and staff in a place she calls Warren Psychiatric Hospital. Each patient housed in Ward 2 South is described in one of the thirteen short chapters. Three additional chapters are devoted to "Nurse Jean", "John the Aide", and "The Administration". The hospital itself is the subject of a prologue and the bleak prospects for patient and staff alike are presented in an epilogue. While it would seem a novella might well offer considerable latitude in construction if translated to mean as in the words of Stephen King, a "disreputable literary banana republic", I can't find any way to call "Ward 2 South" a novella in any sense of the type. It is an entertaining chronicle, or listing of the rooms and patients in this arcane mansion-cum-psychiatric hospital where the insane are guarded by people who are only saner by a slight difference of time, place and definition. There is no plot in this book; no conflicts on which the book turns and no real interaction between the patients. That is not to say there isn't the opportunity for all of the elements of a novella. They never appear in this "review of residency" or perhaps "clinic patient census."
It is likely that the reader of this review might wonder why I have not given the lowest possible rating to "Ward 2 South", given that it is sailing under false colors as a novella. The reason for my rating is that the one hundred seven pages are structurally tight and well written. As I read, I "saw" the patients in their pathetic states and knew exactly what they were like from Ms Mitchell's writing. I "saw" the smirk of self-satisfaction on Dr. Jack Monie's (he's not a real doctor) face as he schmoozes and glad hands the board of directors; the tight look on the face of Nurse Jean, who herself possesses a large swarth of mental instability to commend her. I was drawn into each of the thirteen patient rooms, by turns repulsed and fascinated. Once begun, I was committed to read the story of each character so facilely pictured. "Ward 2 South", a catalog of all the insane in the asylum, needs only a plot on which to turn to become a real novella.