Everything is at its best in Denis Murphey’s life. As long as things go as he plans them and as long as there are no odd numbers. His days are highly regulated: waking up at exactly the same time, the amount of minutes he needs in the bathroom, his breakfast. Once a week, he visits his friend Eddie who is in hospital and also once a week, he sees his mother. Everything is at its best. But then Rebecca reappears in town. His ex-girlfriend. How could she? And how can he avoid meeting her? He cannot and soon his life and the life of his four housemates is turned upside down.
At first, there were a lot of things I was wondering about. First of all, of course, Denis’ strange behaviour. That there is a kind of over-control impulse which limits him in his life is quite obvious. He has a fixed plan and he cannot tolerate any variation from it. He seemed to me to suffer from autism spectrum disorder due to his repetitive behaviour patterns and his restricted range of activities and friends. Soon, however, it becomes obvious that something has triggered this behaviour and that he certainly was not born with it. So, the big question arises: what has happened?
Second, the housemates. There are four of them, very singular creatures with distinctive features and somehow destructive traits of character. The fact that they talk to Denis all the time did not necessarily mean for me that they were humans, I guessed at times that they were cats, but this assumption did not really fit with everything in their description and behaviour. When I finally sorted out who or rather what they were, it all made sense.
It is not revealing too much of the story when saying that the protagonist is suffering from a serious mental health problem. A lot of what happens only happens in his brain but he cannot cope with it or even fight it. The demons that haunt him are real for the time being and what is in his head cannot get out or be explained to anybody. He is alone with his fight and several times prone to give up the war he is waging. I really appreciated the metaphor of the four housemates who inhibit Denis and who tell him what to do since this renders it possible for people who have never been in close contact with such an illness to understand not only how those affected feel but first and foremost how difficult it is for them to get back to a “normal” life and to be in command over their life.
All in all, a difficult topic masterly transferred into literature and thus a valuable contribution in the fight for understanding mental health problems.