I can't even begin to tell you how much I loved Blue Asylum. I had never read anything by Kathy Hepinstall before but the premise of this novel attracted me to it so I entered a contest and won it. Thank heaven I did because this is undoubtedly going to be on my Top 10 list this year.
The story is about a woman named Iris Dunleavy. She is the daughter of a minister who grew up in Virginia, is courted by a visitor from further south, and marries him. The Civil War is going on, but so far she has felt little repercussion from that war. Her husband takes her home to his plantation but before going to the main house he stops the wagon at the family cemetery, takes her by the hand to his parents' graves, and says, "Here she is." Uh-oh. Right there you know something isn't right with this man, and this isn't going to end well.
I'll skip over the fascinating story of how this happens (no spoilers here) but Iris ends up being declared insane and sent to a lunatic asylum on Sanibel Island. Yes, that Sanibel Island. Most of the book details her life on Sanibel, the doctor and staff, the other patients, and finally the doctor's thoughtful and kind12 year old son, Wendell, who becomes Iris' friend.
The novel has many tragic scenes, some tender moments, and a story you just can't tear yourself away from. We've had several rainy days in a row, which is a good thing since I just read and read until I finished this story. In a blurb on the cover, Hillary Jordan writes of Hepinstall's "vivid, beautifully crafted sentences." The quality of her writing was what made me read the book slowly so that I could savor each scene, each description, each character.
I recommend this highly whether you like historical fiction or character-driven stories. It's just plain wonderful.