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Banana Kiss

by Bonnie Rozanski

The frightening world of mental illness is illuminated through Bonnie Rozanski’s fictitious tale of schizophrenic Robin Farber, a young woman whose home is the harsh enclosure of a psychiatric institution. Trapped in a whirlwind of internal voices, manic behaviour, and violent tirades, Robin’s story is riveting and engaging, often humorous, and frequently desperately sad.

There is no easy answer to Robin’s imprisonment of the mind, no happy ending, no pat psychiatric “cure.” Yet the journey Rozanski takes us on in the exploration of Robin’s inner and outer worlds is a narrative delight – swiftly moving, with many surprises in plot and character. We meet the characters in Robin’s twisted life: the malicious sister who stole her boyfriend; the long-suffering mother and stepfather; the clinical yet very human psychiatrist; the manic/depressive suicidal boyfriend; and even her long-dead father, one of the many “voices” that haunt her.

The relationship with sometime boyfriend Derek provides the story’s central focus. Their saga is laden with pathos. That the romance is doomed is inevitable. Yet as we see it unfold, the intense yearning of these two lost souls is palpable, making the end result beautifully moving, albeit painful.

Banana Kiss is a sympathetic but never mawkish portrayal of a woman who suffers the horrors of a damaged mind and yet always retains her dignity. We can deeply empathize with Robin’s world. Her unique version of reality is portrayed with so much truth that we begin to understand how it’s possible that such a world can make sense in Robin’s mind. Even though we shudder to think how agonized that mind is, we can delight in her lively personality, eccentric sense of humour, and quirky take on life.

Robin’s story reminds us how delicately we tread the realm of sanity, and her experiences constantly challenge definitions of sanity. As a result, we emerge from her story with a greater understanding of the unremitting suffering and surprising joys that a life like Robin’s can bring.