5-stars for “The Anesthesia Game” by Rea Nolan Martin



This amazing story revolves around a terminally ill fifteen year-old girl, Sydney; her clinically depressed mother, Mitsy; her somewhat-flakey-but-well-meaning aunt, Hannah; and a somewhat fallen-from-grace mystic, Pandora, who has succumbed to indulgence in some substances that compromise her many talents. The story’s viewpoint rotates by chapter from woman to woman, and I must say that I almost didn’t make it past Chapter 1 where I met Hannah, since she was such a piece of work I wasn’t sure I could handle an entire book about this self-centered, dysfunctional woman.

We all know that there’s nothing more boring than perfect people, especially in a novel, but sometimes they can be so flawed that you just want to slap them upside the head. Fortunately, I usually give a book three chapters to grab me, and I’m glad I persevered, because it got better and better after that.

Nonetheless, the dysfunctionality of this group was rather extreme, though I suppose credible; there are plenty of people out there that are that messed up. The only thing that keeps Mitsy sane as she deals with her daughter’s horrible illness is her phone consultations with Pandora, a psychic who’s really out there, but that’s what makes her good at what she does. Being in touch with other dimensions and the etheric plane is what defines a psychic’s value. Hannah, however, thinks she’s a fraud, a complete unbeliever in such hocus-pocus.

Everyone’s life in the story revolves around Sydney, a feisty, wonderful teenager with some horrible disease the name of which they refuse to say or even think, though the implications are that it’s leukemia. When Sydney goes in for treatments, she plays the “anesthesia game”, where she asks Hannah to mention a place for her to “visit” while she’s unconscious, then come back and report what she finds.

However, as it turns out, these are not hallucinations or dreams, but excursions to another place and time during which these women were also connected, though this is not obvious to her.  At some time or another, all of them have the same dream, though the only one who comprehends its significance is Pandora. The entanglement of these four women throughout the ages has involved repeated tragedies and problems, which have again manifested in their current lifetime. Pandora believes it’s her mission to heal the root cause, once and for all, through identifying the problem at the energy level.

The main story targets whether or not Pandora would succeed in healing Sydney, but there were subplots galore. These characters were not only 3-dimensional, but possible 4 or 5, given the full scope of the story. Each has a distinct personality, the imagery vivid enough that I could easily imagine what each looked like, to say nothing of the glorious vistas describing the various settings in Connecticut, Virginia, and the Lake Tahoe area.

There’s a heavy dose of mysticism, which is why I loved it. The author did an outstanding job capturing Pandora’s spiritual connections to this other world with all its metaphysical characteristics. As someone who has similar beliefs with regard to who and what we are, including the fact that we’ve all lived multiple lifetimes, I was thoroughly sucked in and enchanted. Like Pandora, I believe that our physical bodies, spirits, and minds are intertwined at a mystical energy level that touches on the world of quantum physics. As a physicist, I loved the particle/wave duality references. Good job!

Readers of the same mindset as Hannah who aren’t into the paranormal may do a lot of eye-rolling at these mystical elements, but I ate it up. These are obviously the types who gave this great story poor reviews. Undoubtedly, it had too much depth for the casual reader.

This story took me on a magical journey that was part soap opera and part fantasy adventure, of which I loved every moment–at least once I got past the somewhat awkward introduction to Hannah. Of course this is only my opinion, but I think I would have started the story with Sydney, since in many respects she was the central character and built a lot more reader sympathy off the bat than her crazy aunt. But the good news is that she and Mitsy shaped up considerably by the mind-bending end of the story.

I’ll definitely be looking at other novels by this author. She really nailed it.