Donít Look Down Review
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Four mentally disturbed men with very different personalities and temperaments share a room in a Canadian forensic psychiatric ward. Ranging in age from 18 to 81, they have all committed or have attempted to commit murder.

The youngest, David, suffers from schizophrenia and, in my opinion, seems to be the most mentally ill of the four. He keeps losing focus and switching topics during his therapy sessions, even to the point of frustrating his doctor.

Joseph, in his 50s, is severely depressed and suffering from extreme bouts of jealousy. After losing his job, he admits to his therapist that his wife was guilty of having affairs with every man she came in contact withófrom their priest to the local barber.

Frank is also middle-aged, and heís one that I would label as a sociopath. He seems to be downright evil, and he scares not only his roommates but the nurses in the ward. In fact, he feels most comfortable in the place where he spent most of the last ten yearsóin prison.

  
 
Henry, the eldest, seems to be constantly confused, though I canít determined whether he has dementia, Alzheimerís, or any other mental disorder. Heís accused of the mercy killing of his common-law wife, who had terminal cancer.

Youíre probably thinking that Iím making assumptions and diagnoses that Iím totally unqualified to make. And youíre right. Who am I to say that David is psychologically worse off than the others, or that Frank is actually evil? However, I canít help but be put into this position. Though Donít Look Down includes some narrative, author and forensic psychiatrist David Laing Dawson introduces these patients mostly from their own perspectives and in their own words, in private therapy sessions and through their interactions with each other. In fact, we slowly learn about them and their moral fiber through these often comical discussions, which sometimes follow a rather incoherent train of thought. We also learn about their tragic pasts and what brought them to where they are now. And their lives come full-circle as we discover what eventually happens to each of them.

While it forces readers to make their own interpretations, thatís only one aspect of what makes Donít Look Down such a unique and absorbing work of fiction. The characters seem very real. Some of the men show such warmth that you canít help but feel for them, and you may feel guilty as you find yourself chuckling as they explain their past and present conditions.

When you finish reading these comical yet tragic situations, you may come up with totally different conclusions. That can be expected, as we all have our own perceptions and prejudices. In any event, those who are interested in the study of abnormal behavior or enjoy in-depth character analysis will find Donít Look Down both unusual and fascinating.

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