Betrayal of Love and Freedom by Paul Huljich is an ambitious novel, spanning four decades and four continents. It weaves together three separate stories. The first has overtones of a thriller. It finds Luke Powers, a powerful international businessman, in a courtroom, facing life imprisonment for the murder of a woman he once loved. The second focuses on Luke's previous life. It begins on a tragic day, when he was eleven years old, and ends with him as a middle aged man on trial for his freedom. The third story is about Rick Dellich, another wealthy, successful businessman whose life intersects with Luke's several times. Rick's story begins in medias res, as the New Zealander begins his stay in an American psychiatric hospital. He has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, separated from his wife and two sons, and stripped of his rights as a New Zealand citizen. We learn about the events that led him to this point and about what comes next, as he begins his gradual journey to recovery.
This is largely a character driven novel, relying on narrative and exploration of the characters' thoughts and feelings. Overall, I didn't find the character development as subtle and rich as I might have hoped. On the other hand, Huljich created characters I cared about, which is no mean feat for an author.
Rick's character, and his story, was the most compelling. Perhaps this was because it was loosely based on events in the author's own life. One of the main reasons I agreed to review this book was because it explored a character's battle with bipolar disorder. As some of you know, mental illness is a deeply personal subject for me, and I wanted to get a glimpse of the author's journey through a fictional window. I was not disappointed. While Rick's experiences were vastly different from my own family's struggles, it was a captivating and inspiring story. Rick refused to accept the assumption that his illness was biogenetic and that he would be on psychotropic medication for the rest of his life. Keep in mind that he had no known family history of bipolar disorder and his illness was relatively late in onset. Rick stepped away from the mainstream medical establishment, rehabilitating himself through nutrition, including organic, nonprocessed foods, exercise, and making courageous changes in his life.
One of the things I enjoyed most was the author's exploration of Rick's relationship with his wife, Kate, before and after his "breakdown." While their marriage had been incredibly difficult before Rick's illness was treated, it became even harder in recovery. This is often the case. The problems in Rick and Kate's relationship were fairly complex, and this part of the novel felt real to me.
One of the most interesting things about Betrayal of Love and Freedom is the breadth of scope. It visits several decades and many countries, including the author's home country of New Zealand, Australia, Europe, China, Hong Kong, Singapore, and the United States. I discovered interesting cultural details about some of these countries, including a Maori creation story and an exploration of the Chinese sense of duty to ancestors.
My main complaint? This novel took me on so many fascinating journeys, from a pilgrimage to a rocky mountainside in Medjugorje, where the Virgin Mary had appeared, to scuba diving around the Great Barrier Reef. While it included interesting details about the characters' travels, I wanted much more descriptive detail. Perhaps this is the wannabe traveler in me. I was disappointed at having "visited" these places without really "seeing" them.
Furthermore while Betrayal of Love and Freedom is written in an articulate style, the prose seemed labored at times. It struck me that there was a lot of that "telling rather than showing" that's anathema to us writing teachers. :-) The author spent a great deal of time telling us what characters thought and experienced rather than leaving room for readers to explore that for ourselves.
On the other hand, this novel has many interesting facets, especially in its exploration of a man's experience with bipolar disorder and its geographic scope. At times, it was a real page-turner; the plot kept me guessing until the end. I think it will be enjoyed by many readers, and I hope to see it more widely reviewed in the near future.
FYI: The first part of the novel contains explicit sex scenes, in case you're sensitive to that ... or in case it sweetens the deal for you. :-)
Many thanks to the author and to Eric Glover, publicity assistant with Planned Television Arts, for providing a copy of this novel for review.
Read Another Review: All About Bipolar
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