Kathy Hepinstall is an author, I will keep an eye on. In “Blue Asylum” she has written an original story, but it is her language and narrative style that raises her above so many other talented authors. Hepinstall masters the fine art of writing by omission. She leaves the readers hooked by not confiding all the characters’ secrets, but carefully hints at them, making them snippets of truth for the reader to play with in their mind. Furthermore, she relishes the moments building up to a pivotal moment and than omits the scenes, we as readers have read thousands of times before. The result is a masterpiece about shattered minds and shattering beliefs in a time shattered by a grusome war.
The plantation wife Iris Dunleavy is placed at the Sanibel Asylum after being judged mad by a court of law. She arrives at the backwards paradisiacal island outside the reach of the raging Civil War to be treated by Dr. Cowell. Other prominent characters are Ambrose Weller, a soldier broken by his actions in the war, and Dr. Cowell’s son, Wendell, who grows up amidst lunatics and the fierce natural surroundings. All four, and the rest of the motley of characters, have their conflicts with insanity versus sanity, secrets, truth, and freedom. These themes transcend the novel’s front and back covers into the lives of the readers. The questions, the characters ask of themselves are as relevant today as during the Civil War.
In fine, I have to say, I adore the ending of the “Blue Asylum”. There are no playing violins here nor glorious riding into the sunset, but a retreat to a place of sanctuary in order to let the experiences of “Blue Asylum” crystalize and become a new strength. I recommend “Blue Asylum” to readers of historical fiction and to those who enjoy the rare literary gems, whose brilliance surpasses all the shiny and pretty stones on a beach.