A refreshing take on grief and living with mental illness, IT ISN'T CHEATING IF HE'S DEAD deals with one woman's struggle to come to terms with her fiancé's death. Jemima Stone's fiancé Gerald has been missing for four years. Before his disappearance, he was diagnosed with schizophrenia and went off his meds. The novel opens with Detective Finn Wight telling Jem that Gerald has been found murdered in a Montreal dumpster. Jem is a defense lawyer in Calgary, and before he got sick Gerald was researching a cure for cancer. Jem is now left alone to try to piece together why Gerald left and how life goes on without him. She takes his leaving as abandonment and a sign that he didn't love her. Jem struggles with feelings of worthlessness because of Gerald's loss. As the novel progresses, Finn helps Jem learn about Gerald's life, medical history, and the missing four years before his death. By the novel's end, Jem is able to rediscover her sense of self-worth and lay Gerald to rest. IT ISN'T CHEATING IF HE'S DEAD tells the story of Jem's grief over her fiancé Gerald's death and her search for answers. Julie Frayn's novel is a compelling study of mental illness. It asks some hard questions about how we treat the mentally ill. Althea's (Gerald's mother) denial of mental illness destroyed her husband and her son. Yet Jem's acceptance and support weren't enough to hold Gerald. Ms. Frayn rightly points out that we still have no good way to treat illnesses of the mind. She has Gerald tell Jem that the meds are killing him slowly and the disease is killing him quickly and ask how can he live with either? Still, Ms. Frayn does not create a suicidal character. Gerald leaves to continue the fight on his own. This leaves the reader with a sense of hope for the future in spite of Gerald's fate. The use of a third person limited narrator causes the reader's viewpoint to be filtered through Jem's thoughts and feelings. It is an interesting choice to write a book about mental illness from the point of view of those left behind. The only problem is that this is not a romance novel; it is general fiction. While Jem does end up with Finn, that is not the real story being told in this novel. It is instead a brilliant and insightful exploration of grief, loss and living with the mentally ill. - See more at: http://www.theromancereviews.com/viewbooksreview.php?bookid=21781#sthash.ZuFzUuGK.dpuf
Elizabeth Ramsay is an editor and education writer.