The Many Worlds of Mr. A. Skouandy & Other Stories from Oakwood Sanatorium is an assorted collection of short stories ranging from heartbreaking to horrifying. Author Julie Kusma explores loss, loneliness, grief, and a host of other mental afflictions in these winding, interconnected tales from the titular mental hospital. We follow Dr. Shepard Blanchard as he investigates the curious case of a newly admitted patient, one Mr. A. Skouandy and his mysterious knowledge of other patients in the ward. Dr. Blanchard becomes transfixed with Mr. Skouandy’s claims, and his investigation leads him on a journey through the origins of how the inhabitants of Oakwood Sanatorium came to reside there.
The main narrative takes place in the Oakwood sanatorium in the 1940s. We are not privy to Dr. Blanchard’s interviews with the patients; instead, we are treated to events in their lives that cause them to end up in Oakwood Sanatorium. The patient’s stories of loss or trauma and the resulting mental illness or psychotic break offer an interesting reflection on how the diverse characters deal with grief in their lives.
The author explores many genres: science fiction, fantasy, and horror are all represented here, while most of the stories are steeped in reality, as unsettling as it may be. The novel itself is a vehicle for some of Kusma’s works that have appeared previously. Dr. Blanchard’s prologues and handwritten notes offer a connecting thread to the stories, and it works to varying degrees. I feel some of the stories mesh well together in the setting, but others feel forced at times. “Free of Bees “and “The Writing Room” fit nicely. “Silence So Deafening” and “Baby Makes Three” have a very Twilight Zone-vibe, which works for this collection.
The Many Worlds of Mr. A. Skouandy & Other Stories from Oakwood Sanatorium is a collection of short stories collected from patients in a sanatorium, making it easy to combine elements from multiple genres. Readers who like the unusual, strange, and horrifying aspects of life will find this eclectic book a great escape from the day-to-day realities.
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