Friday, September 21, 2012
Reis’s Pieces: Karen Winters Schwartz
Lives intersect like the parts of a Venn Diagrams where we place the commonalities within the loop in the center. Brian and Reis: two educated men- different yet the same. Compartmentalizing their lives into neat sections almost like the bookshelves in a library neatly ordered, numbers and labeled allowing the reader to know exactly what lies beneath the cover of each book and temping them to want to know more. Brian, whose life revolves around working at his law firm, friends he socializes with relationships and daily routines, little if any time to deviate from his preplanned schedule. Reis Welling creates a different kind of persona or routine. Fearful of change, skeptical if not paranoid about people and their motives for approaching him, he hesitates to leave the cocoon of his private world filled with books, plants, leaving work at a set time, weekly dinner and walk in the park. See how all of these similarities fit into the center of the diagram? No let’s add Kelly.
As Kelly was walking her dog in the park she stopped cold when she saw a grown man climbing a tree. Curious about him she stops, stares, smiles and manages to engage him in a brief but telling conversation. Kelly is a researcher for a computer company. Reis works in a library. Reis love botany plants and used to teach. Their two worlds are about to blend or collide into one more commonality placed in the diagram. But, first author Karen Winters Schwartz allows the reader inside the mind of each character as we learn Reis has many mental issues to deal with as we join him for his meeting with his psychiatrist. Suspicious of everyone even the doctor, we learn that he fears change, hates confrontation yet does not hesitate to express himself when angered. We learn something about his early childhood, his relationship with his parents and his love of plants explaining why his parents created a shrine in the attic for him to preserve his treasures.
Kelly Adams is a loner too in many respects but seeking friendships in odd ways. The brunt of bullying and ridicule as a teen and young child she became enveloped in a world too filled with loneliness, suspicions and isolation until she met Phil= a friendship and job and then Brian. So, why was she so enamored or fascinated by Reis when they met at the library where he works and possibly a new friendship and alliance.
Enter Dr. Benson who belongs on Reis’s side of the Venn diagram in his area delineating what makes him unique in his own way. Once again concerned about time, structure and focusing and his attention to detail as we get to know Reis better. Each scene filled with pictures of farms, outside forests, and the beauty of nature, Reis so love with plants, trees and forest can he see the sun shining through or the realities of the world. Reminding me of Adrian Monk as he straightens a picture frame in the Dr’s office and relies on the secretary to keep the Doctor on time. As we hear Reis’s conversation with Dr. Benson we get to know more about his inner most thoughts, personality and fears. As he relates his 2 encounters with Kelly he states, “Maybe she was not sent there.” Adding he thinks is spying on him, information, and anger welling up. The doctor tried to ally his fears but Reis became slightly enraged.
Telling him, about their encounter thinking she’s a spy and then explaining he still hears voices directing him. Medications! More meds, resentment. Another place in the diagram, his parents, why the alienation, no acceptance. As the author takes us inside his childhood home for a brief visit and a trip with his father we learn more about Reis. Hiking is one passion that both father and son enjoy doing together. Organized to a fault, deciding where to go, which mountain to climb and the purpose of the trip sends a message to the reader like father almost like son. Add this to the center of the diagram as we now have Reis, Brian, Kelly and his father but we still need to find out what might bring them all together.
Entering the forest, uniting with nature and becoming one with the souls of living things he sees, the crisp air and the sounds is what Reis yearns and lives for. Yet, his father enjoys the outdoors but views it in a way quite different than Reis. The similarities are there, as they both love the forest, the walks, the trees and being outdoors. But, when comparing it to the city they both present different challenges that sustain and ignite his father and give him the drive to continue. Challenges and victories are looked at much differently by both of these men. Both contemplate the ecology of the forest, their hopes for the future as the author draws us back to the present where things change in a flash for Reis when he meets and falls in love with Ellen Sachs. A simple encounter, a hike in the woods and things heat up. Families met and time spent together and tenure might be in the near future for Reis. But, let’s not forget Kelly who is still prominent in his life as a friend who comes to draw him out and talk in the library.
Some things change as he reveals to Ellen he might get tenure and her whole demeanor changes. Why would she resent his successes? Why is he able to share more with Kelly? What happens to his perfect world? We begin to see where Reis is coming apart and the many pieces of his life that were once blended are falling apart like the ends of a frayed rope about to separate into tiny unusable pieces. From thinking his car was stolen, to realities about Ellen, to his life seeming useless and his hopes fading away we hear the voice of Dr. Benson suggest he up his meds, question his trip with Kelly trying to hide his illness. What would happen if Kelly knew he was schizophrenic? Would she leave?
Reis’s world falls back and forth from the past to the present. His realities change and his dreams might still be the same yet he struggles with his emotions, his truths and his job. Tenure announced. A hike/walk with Kelly and their lives once again intersect. Yet, Kelly has Brian but is he enough? We revisit his life with Ellen as he gets tenure, she begins to sound resentful and his perfect world seems fragile, her feelings about commitment the same and the end result remains to be seen as we move ahead to Kelly. But, his behavior is strange and at times uncontrollable. As we learn more about his time with Ellen and his father’s stroke that causes and takes a toll on him.
The plot moves back and forth between his life with Ellen and Kelly. Both seem to be separate but yet intersecting at some point as his realm of reality changes, his mind snaps, the truths come out and his ability to deal with many situations involving change, stress or even daily life seems to be faltering and diminishing right before the reader’s eyes and his too. But, the reader can see clearly the signs of paranoia, fear and depression but what about Reis? From his time with Dr. Rabin convincing him he took his meds, to confessing in the present to Dr. Benson he stopped, Reis’s world was definitely going to pieces and his behaviors warranted concern but how much he could fool everyone and how far would he go? Reis’s paranoia increased thinking Ellen and her friend Bob wanted to poison him. Fear of sleeping, taking pills, life in general and more when Ellen realized she needed to do something to change her life too.
Evolving into what he was before would never happen. Learning how to deal with his mental illness his choice but would he? Trying to end his life twice would bring things to light for not only Kelly when she learns about his illness but Reis too as he tries to hide from himself and not deal with the harsh reality of being schizophrenic. Meds that he refuses to take, outbursts that are violent, voices that control his actions and thoughts and what finally happens and the end result you will learn when you read Reis’s pieces yourself.
Life can change for someone in the flick of a moment. Reis decides to leave the world he knows and encounters someone that enlightens him to the true meaning of survival. Just what he learns and where he winds up you will not believe. Will he ever reconcile himself with his illness? Will he ever feel whole? Reis’s pieces: Find out where they all fit.
Author Karen Winters Schwartz’s research into this mental illness allows the reader to truly understand what happens in the mind of someone that is schizophrenic and the amazing breakthroughs made to help him or her. Brian, Reis, Kelly and Ellen: all intersecting in the center of the diagram yet each having their own separate sections and goals. This is a must read for everyone. Misunderstandings, misconceptions and distrust can lead to bad results when people do not understand that a person is ill and needs help. Find out what happens when Reis searches for his place in this world.
Fran Lewis: reviewer