Bebe Moore Campbell weaves a tale of unrelenting love and pain in her latest novel 72 Hour Hold. 72 Hour Hold tells the story of Keri, a successful owner of an upscale Los Angeles Boutique whose beautiful, intelligent 18 year old daughter has been diagnosed with bi-polar disorder. Quite gifted and on her way to Brown University, Trina’s life has come to an abrupt halt as her disorder overtakes her and Keri tries everything, legal and illegal, to try to save her daughter from this debilitating disorder.
Moore Campbell does an excellent job of portraying the hell a family has to go through when a loved one has been diagnosed with a mental illness. The struggles with the health care system, the erratic behavior, the toll it takes on the healthy family members, are all told in breathtaking detail and roll off the pages in a fast paced, rollercoaster ride that keeps you guessing from beginning to end.
The best part about 72 Hour Hold is that it manages to never come off as preachy or judgmental. There’s some scathing commentary on the problems with the mental health industry in this country and the novel handles that discourse in a way that allows you to understand both sides of the issue from patients rights, to the needs of the families trying to save their relatives and the overworked and under-funded system we have in place to deal with some of our most troubled citizens. Moore Campbell offers insight into a world that few are privy to or want to admit they are a part of and in so doing challenges all of us to do something to better the treatment and understanding of those who suffer from a mental disorder, whether we are personally affected by it or not.
The one criticism I have of the novel is how the main character, Keri is very difficult to sympathize with. She is judgmental, unforgiving, arrogant, short-sighted and all around a person that is very hard to like. She is incredibly inconsiderate of those in her life and completely unaware of the needs and desires of others. I spent the whole novel being amazed at her sense of entitlement and superiority. At the same time I found Keri’s character trying, I also recognize that making her such an imperfect person, one who expects and has attained success it makes her daughter’s illness all the more devastating and ultimately makes the novel much more dynamic and interesting.
Bebe Moore Campbell has always been good at creating characters and stories that are compelling and believable. Her characters jump off the page and feel like they could be people you know in your own life. 72 Hour Hold is no exception. It’s a great read and excellent social commentary on an issue that doesn’t receive near as much attention as it deserves.
(C)T. S. Johnson 2005
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