A Diverse Gathering
A Diverse Gathering is vastly imaginative; filled with tales of frenzy and psychosis, the reader is thrust into a psychological thriller and emotional rollercoaster. This collection of short stories is “both emotionally and mentally” disturbing with moments of panic, depression, obsessive-compulsive behavior, drug abuse, hallucinations, murder, fear, and snapshots of hell and children disappearing. The book begins with a literary relic most know as the crazy woman, which in this case is old Mattie Grumly. From then on, the rants of madness unfold, “for her unfit company shines on all who enter and attempt a contact” (The Lake). Each story henceforth is a spiral that penetrates the reader’s psyche with states of confusion, violence and loss. Most of the characters and narratives in these thirty-one chapters are intertwined at the Old Road with a ghostly presence of rituals and “a mental state…altered” (Prior to my Madness). Vincent Macraven pushes the psychosomatic envelope by tackling issues of fragility and severity with the supernatural, such as with Lucy, a cutter, “revealing the demon, not as a symptom of some psychiatric problem, but as a presence, a being…the markings were proof of the possession” (When Our Demons Come).
However, the various circumstances and relationships around crippling disorders have a tendency to read gimmicky and too staged. The fictionalized take on psychiatric disorder and trauma contains too much “hocus-pocus,” which spins the book into a rather sensationalized read and its characters into caricatures. There are several tongue-in-cheek instances where the repetition of madness and insanity is wearisome to the actual magnitude and seriousness of mental health. Even so, these alarming accounts of psychical proportions and the numerous manifestations of illness are canny and thought provoking; Vincent Macraven is a finely tuned observer and he challenges us to participate in a “growing and present element in society” (Waiting).
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