3 out of 4 stars
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Imagine waking up disoriented, paranoid, and delusional; when sleep comes, it is filled with "hellish nightmares." Stephanie Colbert chronicles the details of her horrific ordeal in her nonfiction narrative, Splintered Reality. In the introduction, Colbert's psychiatrist describes his patient's experiences after being admitted to the ICU before the symptoms of COVID-19 were recognized: "She was in a coma for 18 days, on a ventilator, then went on to experience psychotic episodes."
I read this 56-page narrative in one sitting. Colbert's memories of her experiences that her doctor refers to as "ICU psychosis" are both harrowing and fascinating. She presents these episodes in brief chapters that are alternated with her husband's observations. For example, "Scene One" is written from Colbert's perspective; "Scene Two" reflects her husband's thoughts and distress about his wife's condition.
Sadly, the need for ICU care due to the virus has become a grim reality for many, but I can't fathom how much more frightening it would be if it was compounded by psychotic episodes. Also, at the time of Colbert's January 2020 hospital admission, there was a lack of awareness about COVID-19 in general. Colbert gives readers a first-person glimpse into her nightmarish journey through vivid accounts of her experiences. I particularly like the scenes that portray her husband's perspective and his lovingly patient responses to his wife's delusions. Whether Colbert is accusing Quinton of being an impostor or insisting he put out nonexistent fires, he constantly reassures her that he will tell her the truth. He researches his wife's psychosis and brings her an eclectic assortment of food he knows she prefers instead of hospital food, including bananas, protein shakes, and her favorite hamburgers. At the end of the book, Colbert credits her husband with saving her life "not once, but twice."
I appreciate Colbert's precautionary preface; she warns readers to avoid trying to make sense of her psychotic episodes. The introduction by her psychiatrist and her husband's observations provide needed clarity. However, although the nature of the book hinted that a tidy conclusion wasn't likely, I found the abrupt ending quite frustrating. Not only does it leave the reader with questions, it literally ends with a question. Given the book's brevity, the addition of a few details about Colbert's recovery and lingering effects of the disease would strengthen it as a whole.
Overall, I rate Splintered Reality 3 out of 4 stars. I recommend it to fans of nonfiction narratives and those interested in mental health as it relates to the coronavirus. The book is professionally edited and contains minor profanity.
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