Mind’s Eye by Paul Fleischman; Henry Holt
and Company: New York, 1999; $15.95
D0 you know what your mind’s eye is? It’s your imagination. In this book a sixteen-year-old girl, Courtney, meets an eighty-eight-year-old lady, Elva, nursing home in which both of them are living. Courtney is paralyzed from the waist down and Elva has a disease called Alzheimer’s. Alzheimer’s is a disease that makes you forget everything. If your closest friends and family come to visit you, you may have no recollection of who they are. In the book Elva sometimes thinks Courtney is her sister because of her Alzheimer’s.
This book is about the two main characters, Courtney and Elva, taking an imaginary journey to Italy, with an old guidebook for a guide. Elva wants to take a trip to Italy because before her husband died he asked her to go for him. Now she can’t go because she is too old and sick, so she wants to go on the journey through her mind’s eye. She got an old guidebook on Italy, only to find that she can’t read the tiny print. I felt sorry for Elva at this point, because she loves to read, and to find that your eyes are getting bad when you really need them is sad. Elva has to rely on someone else’s eyes to read for her. She chooses Courtney’s eyes. She invites her on the journey through the mind’s eye.
Courtney is reluctant, but she is so bored that she goes along. The book shows how unpleasant and boring a nursing home can be. First of all, the nurses are untrustworthy. They steal from the patients. The patients have no way to entertain themselves since the TV doesn’t work and they can’t even go out to breathe some fresh air. I would hate to live in a nursing home because in the book it gives you the impression that nursing homes are awful places.
Elva talks to Courtney a lot in the beginning of the book and Courtney doesn’t listen to a word Elva says. I know what this feels like because it has happened to me many times before!
Courtney seemed to be like any other teenager. She likes sleeping in till eleven o’clock! Courtney and Elva were complete strangers in the beginning of the book. They became friends only because Courtney was bored and Elva had nobody to talk to. At first I thought of Courtney as an unattractive teenager, but as the book went on Courtney became much nicer because she learned a lot from Elva. The most important thing she learned was that to survive in a nursing home she had to use her mind’s eye.
This book sends a good message because it shows you can use your imagination for anything. One thing that I didn’t like about the book was the style in which it was written. It was written completely in dialogue like a play, which I felt made it more difficult to read. You have to concentrate harder since there are no paragraphs explaining what’s going on. Also, it seemed to jump around a lot. However, I thought the author’s descriptions gave you a very good idea of what the characters were experiencing and I could picture myself there. The topic was sometimes depressing but sometimes I felt really good for the characters. I felt good when they seemed to be enjoying themselves on their imaginary journey, but not when Courtney was being mean to Elva by ruining it. I felt sad when Elva died, but in a way I also felt good for her, because she lived a good life and with Alzheimer’s and bad eyes I feel she wanted to die.
This book deals with subjects like illness and old age, and being alone in the world, that are rather depressing. Even so, after finishing the book, I didn’t feel sad. Instead I realized how your imagination can turn even awful things into something pleasant. That is what makes this book worth reading.