Kathy Hepinstall is a contemporary best-selling author. She has written four novels including The House of Gentle Men, The Absence of Nectar, and Prince of Lost Places. The following excerpt is taken from her 2012 novel Blue Asylum. This is the story of a Civil War era plantation owner’s wife who is committed to an insane asylum because she has rebelled against the way he treats his slaves.
Eleanor Beacon, who was from a prominent Irish family in Baltimore, suffered from an uncontrollable and persistent imagining of the pains and sorrows of every creature on Earth. She would not eat breakfast, as a slab of bacon was once a pig who cringed at a falling ax, and the eggs evoked the vision of the crestfallen hen, her future chicks stolen right out from under her. At night Eleanor imagined kittens calling to her from the bottom of imaginary wells; dolphins performing tricks in solitary waters with no one to clap; orphaned fawns; stepped upon ants; birds that crashed into windows; turtles left on their backs by merciless children. Dr. Henry Crowell, head psychiatrist at the Sanibel Asylum, had worked with her patiently and had made considerable progress. But now she was back on the subject of that patient horse she used to see in Baltimore, pulling a carriage full of rowdy tourists in the heat of summer.
Dr. Crowell was no stranger to the madness of women. In fact, he specialized in their treatment. But now he was growing tired of lunacy in general and Eleanor Beacon in particular.
He sat behind his desk and fondled the gold pocket watch that hung from his waist. Ten minutes left. Ten minutes of arguing that the natural world was a wound whose scab could not help but be broken. Jellyfish evaporated on the beach, dogs died under the porch, hermit crabs ate crustaceans and themselves were eaten by raccoons, which themselves might fall prey to an osprey. The circle of life was not a mad killer. It simply was round.
The Blue Asylum p. 8
After reading this, who do you think is truly insane?