by Rita Kuehn
Langdon Street press
www.Langdon Street press.com
Pearl lives in an institution and has for years. She gets seizures, but none of the medicine helps so she ditches them or cuts them in half. She makes an escape attempt to meet her boyfriend, Sonny, but just as she almost makes it she throws a seizure and the nurse and warden of the hospital take her back to bed. They wonder why she's fully dressed in the middle of the night. While the rest of the residents line up to board a bus for their day trip to work, a black Lincoln town car pulls up and the chauffeur, Anton, opens the door to let Pearl inside.
Pearls thoughts ramble through her mind, thinking of how the situation she is in came to pass. Her and her friend Amelia were walking behind her house on its lovely grounds, enjoying themselves as young teenage girls do. When Pearl has her first seizure, her mother, hearing her daughter's friend scream, runs to her and holds her down until the seizure passes. Neither mother nor daughter knew what had happened. Her parents hold out hope, but the doctors tests point to that dreaded word — epilepsy, a disease considered in the same family as insanity. And Pearls dreams of a happy future are shattered.
She spends her life in Glory Heights, institutionalized by her own sister. Years later, Pearl sends a letter to Susan, a State Senator, who at 54 would be happy if she never heard from her sister Pearl again. Their parents are dead now and Pearl is her responsibility — and now Pearl writes her saying she wants to marry Sonny. Pearl, at 52, knows no life outside the mental institution and Susan plans to keep it that way. She's been jealous of Pearl and her good-natured manner, her beauty and her place in their parent's hearts. Her epilepsy turns Susan’s jealousy into pure hatred.
Pearl's letter to her sister turns out to be a big mistake. Susan immediately has Sonny removed from the factory where Pearl and he work: also forbidding Sonny's visits to Glory Heights. Pearl is resilient and determined that her and Sonny will be together one way or another. Her caseworker, Matthew, in cahoots with her nurse, Charlotte, have a few tricks up their sleeves to give Pearl the happiness she deserves. Matthew finds a way to get Jordana, Pearl's niece, to help. Susan never told Pearl or Jordana of their existence.
Sensual sparks fly between Jordana and Matthew as they discuss Pearl’s problems and possible solutions. Jordana has a poor relationship with her mother and never doubts that she will stoop to lock away her own sister for good—and keep her public constituents from knowing that she exists.
Author Rita Kuehn writes a poignant story tinged with humor about the appalling lives of disabled patients from the 40s through the 60s. She shows the resiliency of one woman who refuses to tolerate it. The bittersweet ending of Peripheral View will give readers both pleasure and food for thought.
Reviewer: Micki Peluso, writer, journalist, and author of . . . And the Whippoorwill Sang