Title: The Book of Jude
Author: Kimberley Heuston
Publisher: Front Street
Release Date: April 2008
Size: 232 pages, Hardcover
A brilliant young woman’s fight against a debilitating psychological illness is set against the historical events of the Prague Spring and the anti-Soviet struggles in Czechoslovakia. When Jude’s mother gets a fellowship to go to Prague to study, Jude’s world is thrown into chaos. The teenage girl feels threatened and isolated. It turns out her whole family is going, but still Jude feels adrift. When she arrives in Prague and discovers that their life in the embassy compound is closely circumscribed by rules and regulations and that they are closely watched at all times, she begins to suffer even more. Desperate to break out of the constraints imposed on her and her family, Jude sneaks out one night only to encounter a security crackdown on students and dissenters. Although she makes it home safely, her consciousness continues to deteriorate as she fluctuates in and out of rationality. Only when Jude steals a friend’s car and drives into the countryside does the true seriousness of her condition become apparent to her family. Then the long road to recovery begins.
One thought on “The Book of Jude by Kimberley Heuston”
Review by Alexa.
Kimberly Heuston’s most recent novel The Book of Jude takes place in 1989 in Eastern Europe. This momentous year in history marks the destruction of the Berlin wall, and in the course of the novel Jude becomes a witness to the plight of brave East German refugee families when they try to cross Czechoslovakia toward freedom. Most of these events occur while Jude is in the depths of her mental disorder and so remain in the background of the novel, but still feature prominently when they affect Jude’s daily life.
Heuston does a wonderful job in portraying Czech culture, the setting in Prague, and the diversity of the people there, but I feel that she could have done a better job presenting the historical and political situation more clearly. She assumes a little too much knowledge on the reader’s part. At the same time it is intriguing to read about the characters that Jude meets at her international school. Her classmates are often in Czechoslovakia due to their parents' jobs in international positions.
While it is hard to watch Jude fall deeper and deeper into mental illness, I could tell from the beginning that something was wrong with the way Jude was reacting to the events in her life. Episodes of deep anger, feeling distant, and wanting to read in bed all day to distract herself were all clues that something bigger was at work in her life. As the novel progresses, her thoughts become more disconnected from reality, only briefly touching upon those things that are real around her.
While the novel shows clearly that Jude is in pain and needs help, it doesn’t dwell on sorrow, but focuses on finding hope. Ever so slowly, Jude begins to connect with reality again, and learns lessons about her agency and God’s love during her healing process.
I give this book a four out of five star rating because I became engrossed in Jude’s world, and didn’t want to put the book down.
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