4 out of 4 stars
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Uncommon Counsel by Art Smith is one of the best books I have read in a long time. It is written journal-style from William “Rip” Taylor’s point of view. Rip is a successful lawyer who works as a defense attorney in Colorado Springs. One might say he is one of the best lawyers around. He doesn’t lose cases, but he does have a little “secret”. He gets quite a bit of help from two Stellar’s jays, Mara and Kala. They advise him on which cases to take and which ones not to. They also give him information on the cases to help him win. The birds are never wrong, and they lead Rip to the truth of each case. It’s his job to turn their truth into a case that can be heard in court.
The problem is that he is the only person that can hear these birds, and his psychiatrist wants to make them go away. Rip has schizophrenia, a fact that he is well aware of. He knows that he has hallucinations, but he also knows that Mara and Kala are real. Other people can see them; they just can’t understand them. He knows that he can’t live life without medications; the other hallucinations make it too hard for him to function. Too much medication, however, makes it so he can’t understand his jays. Therefore, he must find a balance. What will he do when his new psychiatrist wants to mess with this balance and eliminate all of his symptoms? How will he live his life if he can’t understand Mara and Kala?
The perspective of the story was unique. I have never read a book from the point of view of someone with schizophrenia. Because this book was written journal-style, it really got inside Rip’s head. He wrote about his day, his hallucinations, and his conversations with the jays. My degree is in psychology, so this was really an interesting perspective for me. My logical, educated side wanted to agree with the psychiatrist. I kept thinking that it was dangerous for Rip to be so invested in his hallucinations. The other half of me sided with Rip. Mara and Kala couldn’t really be all in his head, could they?
This perspective combined with the pacing of the book had me not wanting to put the book down. I ended up reading it in just a couple of days. I loved that problems would be introduced with just the right amount suspense to make me really invest my thoughts into what would happen next. The timing was perfect; it was never too fast or too slow. The author also kept me wondering what would happen all the way until the end of the book. I could never quite guess what would happen next. I enjoyed the unpredictability of this storyline.
I also enjoyed the author’s style of writing. His use of vocabulary varied and wasn’t repetitive, which was impressive. I liked that curse words were used where appropriate, but they didn’t bog down the story. As a whole, this author had a very professional writing style even though topics such as drugs and prostitution were brought up. He talked about them in a way that didn’t make me uncomfortable. I think that it was done in a way that would even be appropriate for a young audience.
Because this was the author’s first published book, I really have to commend him for the almost flawless editing on this book. The book was almost completely free from errors. I think I can count all of them on one hand. I really appreciate this in books from new authors. I love when I can get through the story without being distracted by a ton of errors.
I give this book 4 out of 4 stars. It was very well-written and kept me engaged. There weren’t errors, and the author had a great style of writing. The style of this book was balanced in a way that I haven’t seen in a long time. This book would interest a broad audience, and I can’t think of any specific group that wouldn’t enjoy the book. I would recommend it specifically to anyone who has an interest in psychology and schizophrenia and would be interested in seeing it from the patient’s point of view.
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