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  • Tracy Sherlock

New novel explores the thin line between brilliance and insanity

Updated: Jun 1, 2023

No, You're Crazy

By Jeff Beamish

Roundfire Books

Ashlee Sutton’s life hasn’t been easy. The 16 year old’s parents have never made a lot of money – dad’s an artist and mom cuts hair to support the family — and they’re both drug addicts.

Ashlee either has a mental illness or she can see the future, or maybe it’s a bit of both. Her parents take advantage of her abilities, using her foresight to beat the casino, which enables them to increase their drug intake. When her father dies from an inevitable overdose, Ashlee spirals, eventually running away from home.

Mike Baker, a former war journalist who grew up in foster care and now lives in a Miami hotel, never leaving the property, may or may not be her biological grandfather. Baker has never settled down to a life with kids, but he has a history of unprotected sex, so surprise children are a possibility. The last thing he wants is to be drawn into a family drama, but before the reader knows it, he’s on a cross-country hunt for Ashlee that begins in Miami, leads to Sedona and climaxes somewhere outside of Las Vegas.

No, You’re Crazy is Vancouver author Jeff Beamish’s second novel. His first was 2013’s Sneaker Wave, the haunting, memorable story of four teenagers at a party where something goes terribly wrong. Beamish has a talent for seeing inside people’s minds, understanding what makes them tick and connecting their thoughts to life’s meanings and themes. Once readers connect to Ashlee and her maybe-grandfather, they're in for an action-packed adventure, with nuggets of wisdom sprinkled throughout.

No, You’re Crazy reminds me of Begin at the End, an acclaimed 2021 novel by Chris Whitaker. Some of the themes – family instability, drug abuse, honour, shame – are similar. Mental illness takes a lead role in this novel, and specifically the spaces between insanity and intelligence. Ashlee has been diagnosed with Cotard’s Syndrome, a mental illness that makes you believe you are dead. Ashlee believes that she no longer has or requires a physical body, but she can use a shell physical body to communicate with others. Despite her delusions, she has wisdom to share.

In her words, “We talk about life’s biggest mystery, where consciousness comes from. I even give him the answer: our amazing souls mixed with God’s love. Each word I drench in hope, maybe enough to make him ache for me to be right.”

And still later,” Because time doesn’t exist, there is no future to worry about and no past to regret. Not really. All that should matter to you right now is this very moment.”

Beamish takes readers on a hell of a ride, but there’s a little heaven mixed in there too.

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