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The Other Mrs. Smith - Bonnie Burstow

The Other Mrs. Smith

Author Bonnie Burstow

  • Published: 2017-09-15
  • Category: Religious


This novel traces the life experiences of a once highly successful woman who falls prey to electroshock and subsequently struggles, partly successfully, partly in vain, to piece back together her life. Naomi Cohan Smith suffers enormous memory loss; additionally, an estrangement from her family of origin that she has no way to wrap her mind around. The novel begins with her wandering the corridor of St. Patricks-St Andrews Mental Health Centre (St. Pukes) faced with the seemingly impossible challenge of coming to terms with the damage done her, as well uncovering the hidden details of her life. The novel moves back and forth in space and time, between a relatively happy childhood in the legendary north-end Winnipeg of the mid-1900s and post-ECT adulthood in Toronto. Ger, a kind transman who befriends Naomi, comes to suspect that important pieces of the puzzle of what befell Naomi lurk beneath the surface of writing in a binder of hers, known as Black Binder Number Three. In the process of trying to both save and find herself, Naomi flees Toronto, reconnects with her north-end Winnipeg family; builds a new foundation with her eerily similar and not-so-similar twin, and learns to be mother to her estranged young daughter. Filled with a vast array of colourful and insightful characters from a variety of communities—Toronto’s Kensington Market of the 1970s, north-end Winnipeg Jewry, and the ingenious and frequently hilarious mad community—this novel sensitizes us to the horror of electroshock, takes us to new levels in our understanding of what it means to be human, and, in the process, leads us to question the very concept of normalcy.