Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Twenty-Four Shadows

When Tanya J. Peterson contacted me about reading her new novel, published in 2016, Twenty-Four Shadows, I suspected that I'd become absorbed in another intense story.  I've read other books by this very gifted author and educator, namely, Losing Elizabeth (2012) Leave of Absence (2013), and My Life in a Nutshell (2014), and each has kept me riveted.

Set in Portland, Oregon, Twenty-Four Shadows is written in the third person but focuses on the life of Isaac Bittman, his wife, Reese, and their 5-year-old son, Dominic.  Max, the Bittman family's good friend, and his 10-month-old daughter, Elise, are also important characters in the story.  A young and devoted husband and father, Isaac suffers from recurring, debilitating headaches, and his memory lapses and bizarre behavior are getting harder to conceal from others.  Early in the book, he exhibits out-of-control, out-of-character, angry behavior toward Max's wife, Gretchen. A bit later, Reese catches him puffing on cigarettes in the garage (even though he's a non-smoker).  Shortly after this, Isaac loses his job--because he's missed too many days of work--and then goes missing for a while.  This marks a turning point in the story: Isaac's mental illness has begun to affect the entire family.

"Isaac felt sick. What had he done?  What stupid thing did he do to get himself into this mess and hurt everyone so much?"
Twenty-Four Shadows, Tanya J. Peterson
Twenty-Four Shadows realistically depicts the thoughts of a caring but confused man who suffers from a mysterious, difficult, and daunting mental illness.  Gradually in this book, readers meet some of Isaac's "shadows" or alters.  He has twenty-four of them, male and female, young and old, with distinct personalities.  Isaac learns that he has a specific mental illness called dissociative identity disorder (DID). I found this book to be exceptional because it depicts the life of a man afflicted by DID, and features his alters--June, Isaiah, Ishmael, Alton, Archer, Jake, and others--as characters with unique voices, traits, and coping skills (some are protective, like June, while others are destructive and cause self-harm, which is rather frightening).  I've never read a book like this before!  It gave me a better understanding of how mental illness could affect a person and his or her family.  The characters are wonderfully drawn and complex; I rooted for Isaac (and his alters), Reese, Max, Dominic, and Elise.  I felt a great deal of empathy for these characters, who were going through difficult times, each in their own way.  Reese is a helpful, supportive, and loving wife, and Isaac loves Reese and Dominic deeply, but finds it harder to love himself (in fact, he's filled with self-loathing).

Twenty-Four Shadows is genuinely fascinating; it's emotional and impactful as well. It  makes you think about how difficult this mental illness would be to live with.  Fortunately, though, there is treatment available. In the book, Isaac goes to a DID specialty program at the Columbia Health and Healing Center, where he gets help from Dr. Charlie and Susanna Horton, a psychologist.  Previously, Isaac had always blamed and berated himself for his bad feelings; now he will learn how to deal with his illness (which was caused by a childhood trauma), including the voices he hears in his head, and his alters. There is hope for Isaac and his family, and for others afflicted by this disorder.

Twenty-Four Shadows held my attention from start to finish.  Peterson is a wonderful, skillful writer who brings her characters to life in a seemingly effortless manner.   I highly recommend this well-written and hopeful novel.  Twenty-Four Shadows is completely compelling.

Special thanks to the author for graciously sending me a copy of her new novel.
Thanks for reading!  Comments are welcomed, as always.


  1. Great review Suko.

    This sounds very good. It also sounds different, The fact that the the alters can be described like seperate characters is so interesting.

  2. It sure sounds interesting. And like Brian said, very different. Great review!

  3. This sounds quite riveting ; I like the sound of it. Terrific review!

  4. This sounds like a very insightful and sensitive treatment of a difficult topic

  5. Oh my, this sounds really good! I like books that explore mental illness and bring awareness to readers through a good story. I'm adding this one to my TBR. Thanks for sharing.

  6. What a nice review. Sounds like a sad illness. Was this based on a true story, or is it just a novel?

    1. Gigi Ann, the book is fictional, but also educational, in terms of DID. Thank you for your question.

    2. Hi Gigi Ann,
      Thanks for your comment and question. Susan is right -- it's fiction. When I wrote it, though, I researched thoroughly, including repeated interviews with a woman who lives with DID. The story and the characters are fictional, but the experiences of all of the characters are realistic. My hope is that it's entertaining and informative at the same time!

    3. Tanya, your book is definitely entertaining and informative. I became completely involved in the story. Thank you for stopping by, and for leaving a comment.

  7. Thank you for this review, I learned something new, about DID :)

  8. Thank you for the review on a book - the author and book both new to me.

  9. Definitely the kind of book I should enjoy. Thanks Suko, I'll be sure to make a note of what sounds like a wonderfully emotive read.

  10. Sounds powerful. Thanks for sharing!

  11. Wow this sounds like a tough book to read...I can't imagine how hard it would be to care for someone with mental illness. I'm sure that's a strain on the entire family.

  12. I haven't heard of this one and think it sounds really interesting, I like a book that makes you think! xxx

    Lainy http://www.alwaysreading.net

  13. Twenty-Four Shadows sounds very interesting, sad yet hopeful. This almost reminds me of the film Sybil. Have you seen that one?
    Great review!

  14. This sounds unique and very good. It sounds like a book my book club would love to discuss!


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