Like most good novelists, Diane Collman likes to lead her readers into her stories until they are comfortable with their surroundings and feel fairly certain they know what’s going to happen next. But what if the readers are wrong, and something entirely different happens? That is the beauty of her technique and one of the reasons her first novel, “Off Her Rocker” is a fascinating and enjoyable read.
The story begins in 1931 in the small, sleepy town of Liberty, Nebraska, a tight knit community that is just beginning to feel the pressures of the Big Depression. Hadley Palmer, acknowledged “tops in prettiness” by her classmates and Ari Hough, a clever, talented, devastatingly handsome young man are madly in love and vow to marry right after Hadley’s high school graduation, which is just a few weeks away. Given that Ari is the heir apparent to the Hough Ranch, the largest spread in the county, and Hadley comes from a large family struggling to make ends meet on a small farm, it is not surprising that Marion Hough, Ari’s dominating mother is adamantly opposed to their union.
Just as the narrative progresses in a predictable, “Romeo and Juliet” fashion, the readers are jolted out of their complacency when something totally unexpected happens. A devastating combination of youthful, reckless choices and an unforeseen tragedy send Hadley spiraling in to a very personal and haunting journey through the world of mental illness, a world little understood by doctors in Nebraska in the 1930s.
Hadley’s ordeal continues from the time of the tragedy until she finally dies as an old lady. The journey, and what she went through, was a nightmare with twists and turns of every kind; indiscretions, incurable depression, shock treatments, and at times, a totally unpredictable lifestyle. Collman chronicles this journey in detail including descriptions of its effect on her husband, children and grandchildren. She wrote this chronicle carefully with compassion, understanding and love, and it is during this narrative that her writing really shines.
If you are like me, you will probably have several questions after you finish “Off Her Rocker”, not the least of which is was Hadley Palmer a real person, or if not, did the author have someone, possibly in her family, who served as a model for this excellent novel. I suspect I know the answer, but I am not sure. But anyway, it is up to her to answer that question when she’s ready. And I sure hope she does and I hope everyone takes the opportunity to read “Off Her Rocker”. It’s a winner by anyone’s definition and I highly recommend it.
“Off Her Rocker”” is published by The Pelican Communications Group; First edition (January 5, 2015) and can be purchased worldwide online at Amazon, Create Space, and other major online book sellers throughout the world..
Ron Standerfer is a novelist, freelance writer, book reviewer, and book publisher whose articles have appeared in numerous news publications including online editions of the Chicago Tribune, USA Today, and the Honolulu Star Advertiser. He is a member of the International Travel Writers & Photographers Alliance (ITWPA), American Writers & Artists Inc. (AWAI). and the Independent Book Publishers Association (IBPA). He is a retired Air Force fighter pilot who flew 237 combat tours in Vietnam War. His novel, The Eagles Last Flight www.eagleslastflight.com chronicles the life of an Air Force fighter pilot during the Cold War and Vietnam years. He is also the founder and President of The Pelican Communications Group www.pelicancomgroup.com, an independent book publisher specializing in new and relatively unknown authors.