the_brain_within_its_grooveReviewed by Shannon Trenton

The Brain, within its Groove
Runs evenly – and true –
But let a splinter swerve –
‘Twere easier for You –

To put a Current back –
When Floods have slit the Hills –
And scooped a Turnpike for Themselves –
And trodden out the Mills –

The doctor chronicles his suffering from nightmares that haunt him even during the day. When his terrors begin to paralyze him physically, he realizes the only cure is to revisit the unspeakable memories locked deep within his psyche. As he works with another psychoanalyst – a would-be protégé of his own work – he must face the darkest moments of his career and his life.

The Brain within its Groove takes its title from the Emily Dickinson poem cited above. It is a compelling novella that explores the psychological depths of the human brain, its capacity for self-preservation and the collateral damage those subconscious efforts can cause. As doctor becomes patient we begin the story within the story, about a beguiling patient and a mental affliction without cause or explanation – but with an unexpected treatment. To what lengths will the doctor go to treat Isadore’s malady, and what will it cost him?

It is interesting to read the story from the doctor’s point of view. Even as his tone and word choice indicate he is making a report for future psychoanalysts to study (as he indeed is), first-person perspective as always creates a heightened emotional environment and, for me at least, allows me to invest more fully in the character. This investment is doubly important because only the doctor and Isadore stand out in the handful of characters populating the novella – the others, while named, are only briefly described and exist only to drive the narrative between the two.

This story was altogether intriguing, and Nino wove it with great economy – in many cases, leaving much of the interpretation up to the reader. For example, an important exchange between the doctor and his nurse, Miss Pattinson, had more implied significance than the exposition created. Isadore’s unique mental condition also left room for questions and assumptions that the doctor himself never seems to answer. The climax itself is so powerful because of the doctor’s reluctance to share the memory in detail, instead requiring the reader to draw her own conclusions about what really happened. Therein lays the appeal of this novella: the reader must get her brain in its own particular groove to not only follow the story, but also understand or ponder the parts that remain untold.

The only real drawback of The Brain Within Its Groove was a small number of grammatical errors that can be easily corrected in its digital format.

I recommend this book to any reader who appreciates a story that doesn’t lay everything out on the table. Fans of psychological stories and mysteries would also enjoy this relatively quick read.

Rating: ★★★★½ 

Shannon lives in Cleveland, Ohio with her husband, son, and two cats. When she isn’t reading, getting paid to play on social media, or running her own business she enjoys playing with her baby and cooking.

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by L.N. Nino. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.