Shunned: Outcasts in the Land by Cynthia Hearne Darling

I recently received a review copy of this book from the author through Smith Publicity.

16205794About the book:

Amos, a small town minister in New England, is horrified. His wife Carrie has been jailed for vandalism against Jett Pharmaceuticals, her retaliation for their son John’s death by a drug overdose. Amos’s own reaction to his son’s death is to speak prophetically on Hell and punishment through preaching and conducting public meetings. Public reaction is fierce and unforgiving against the couple Released from jail, Carrie forms a group, including skeptic Allan, CEO of Jett, to expose harms caused by antidepressants. She also confronts Dr. Monroe, John’s university counselor, who engineered the boy’s death. He is infuriated and threatened by Carrie. Monroe schemes to punish Carrie by killing Amos, arranging for him to come to his office to retrieve John’s falsified records, that state that their son’s death was caused by the parents’ fundamentalist lifestyle. Carrie, devastated at her husband’s death, puts roses in her dead husband’s hands at the funeral, as he had done for her outside the jail upon her release. Monroe sends his grossly obese wife Nellie on a cruise, but she confronts him about Amos’s death upon her return. He decides to kill her also, planning the murder with delight and great precision. Meanwhile, Carrie learns that Nellie may have information to sell regarding Amos’s murder. Allan, now a suspect in Amos’s death, decides to approach Nellie himself. He drives to the house, followed by the police. He hears screams within the house. Nellie has Monroe in a death grip. The police arrive. Allan is exonerated. Monroe becomes psychotic, now locked in a mental institution. Carrie and Allan remain friends. Old Mrs. Robbins, the town’s eccentric, hands Carrie a rose. The cycle is complete, she says. Carrie understands. She tells Allan he has to reread Hawthorne to understand.

Shunned’s roots lie in The Scarlet Letter and Sinclair’s The Jungle, a model for muckraking against the powerful antidepressant industry.

About the author:

Cynthia Hearne Darling has an English degree from the College of William and Mary and master’s degrees in social work and public administration. She has worked for the federal government in mental institutions, Indian reservations and the Department of Justice in Washington, D.C. She says it was sometimes hard to tell one agency from another, but she preferred the Indian reservation. It was against this bureaucratic background that her love of writing was reinforced, because of the complete freedom it gave her. She has published Forty-Nine Poems, Shunned: Outcasts in the Land, and she has almost completed Georgetown Journeys, a novel taking place from the 1960’s to the present.

What I Thought:

People want to complain about problems in our society, but most people would rather turn their heads and look the other way or sweep things under the rug than deal with them head on. But write it up as a fictional story and people will eat it up. I love how this story not only addresses the over-use of prescription drugs, but mainly anti-depressants. A lot of people don’t understand that this is a real problem. It also addresses the issue of “shunning” which most people may not even think still exists. But it does, especially in smaller towns. Shunned also deals with two other sensitive topics: suicide and religion. All of this in one book? You bet.

I would describe this as a murder mystery, possibly even a thriller, because it is very suspenseful. Again, I love how the author centered the story around pharmaceutical use. A young college boys ODs but not on herion or crack, on anti-depressants. So how does the mom lash out? By demonstrating an act of vandalism against the drug plant that produced them. Which happens to be the main job source for several people in her town. And she is the preachers wife at that. Instead of the townspeople coming together and supporting the minister and his wife in the loss of their son, she is shunned for going after the drug plant.

The author said one of the books she mirrored this one around was The Scarlet Letter. The Scarlet Letter is one of my favorite classics, and I did see a lot of similarities. I loved how Carrie held onto the “A” from her jail uniform and the symbolism it held.

This is a deep, thought provoking book. If you want a fun, light, happy read, this is not for you. If you want something that will encourage to think a little deeper and outside of the box, then this IS for you.

I give Shunned 4.5 stars. Outstanding job!

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