The human mind holds the power to be the most life-saving and fantastical tool at our disposal, but it can also serve as a deceiving weapon that threatens to tear apart the seams of our reality. Dennis Lehane’s 2003 thriller Shutter Island follows this train of thought in a psychologically-charged plot that leaves readers in a suspended state of disbelief as each revelation comes to light.
The plot follows U.S. Marshal Teddy Daniels and his recently-assigned partner Chuck Aule as they are sent to investigate the disappearance of a dangerous patient named Rachel Solando at the mysterious Ashecliffe Hospital for the criminally insane.
Once a severe storm hits, the pair are seemingly trapped at the hospital, which is located on a remote island only accessible by ferry. As more and more clues about Rachel’s whereabouts are revealed, Teddy finds a string of hints that lead him to believe that there are very sinister intentions at work at the hospital.
While I am a huge fan of the 2010 film adaptation by Martin Scorcsese, I regard the novel as its own separate entity and did my best not to draw comparisons as I turned each page. Shutter Island has to be one of the most dread-inducing novels I have ever read, not entirely based on the narrative alone (which in itself is filled with cleverly concocted twists and turns), but on the implications of paranoia and uncertainty placed upon the reader as well.
As I got to submerge myself into the lore of the story, I couldn’t help but question what it means to be “sane” in the traditional sense, and if any moment of weakness or manipulative tactics enacted by others could really wither down a person’s mental fortitude. Teddy’s experiences and the characters he encounters are exceptionally eerie and cast a looming shadow over any kind of predictability that I was previously skeptical about.
I would most definitely recommend Shutter Island as a novel to pick up for some quiet alone time, chills and all, as you get transported into the world of unearthed revelations and secrets as indiscernible as ink blots on a piece of paper.
“He wanted to ask her what sound a heart made when it broke from pleasure, when just the sight of someone filled you the way food, blood, and air never could, when you felt as if you’d been born for only one moment and this, for whatever reason, was it.”
“She was afraid of all that and so much more, but what terrified her most was inside of her, an insect of unnatural intelligence who’d been living in her brain her entire life, playing with it, clicking across it, wrenching loose its cables on a whim.”
“Waking, after all, was an almost natal state. You surfaced without history, then spent the blinks and yawns reassembling your past, shuffling the shards into chronological order before fortifying yourself for the present.”
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Either way, you’re in for a mind-numbing experience!
– Crystal Harrell
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