Well, I stayed up way too late reading last night. The culprit: Over the Edge by Brandilyn Collins. This soon-to-be-released novel focuses on the plight of Chronic Lyme Disease sufferers.
Over the Edge tells the harrowing tale of Janessa McNeil. Janessa’s husband is a highly respected doctor and researcher at Stanford. His specialty is tick-borne diseases, particularly Lyme. For years, he’s insisted that Chronic Lyme Disease doesn’t exist. His research and testimony have helped to create a climate in which chronic sufferers of the disease have a difficult time getting their treatment covered by insurance or even finding a doctor willing to treat them. Dr. McNeil is set to release his latest findings, which will further hurt their cause.
One deeply troubled man decides to take matters into his own hands. He wants Dr. McNeil to experience the very disease he denies, up close and personal, by infecting someone he loves: his wife. After successfully infecting Janessa, he contacts her and demands that she convince her husband to publicly reverse his position. If she’s unsuccessful, her nine year old daughter will be next. Janessa is frantic to protect her daughter, but she’s so sick she can barely function. Even worse, her husband doesn’t even believe she has Lyme…in fact, he accuses her of faking the whole thing in order to get his attention! The clock is ticking and Janessa doesn’t know where to turn.
The story repulsed and fascinated me at the same time. I was torn: I had such an intense dislike for Dr. McNeil and his unbelievable treatment of his wife that I didn’t want to keep reading, but I also felt a connection with Janessa and her daughter that made me want to for their sake. This emotional tug-of-war, along with the tension of the plot, made for a very tense, suspenseful read. I do have to say I was slightly disappointed that I guessed the identity of the culprit correctly almost from the very start. I felt that it was a little too obvious.
Still, Ms. Collins is a skillful writer, keeping the tension and suspense high. Writing from her own personal experience with the disease, her description of Janessa’s emotions and physical agony are very realistic and believable. Her bond with her daughter and her emotional pain at her husband’s actions are heart stirring. Her daughter Lauren is portrayed well as a typical nine year old girl. Both Dr. McNeil and the unnamed culprit are also well-developed. They both repulsed me! The other characters, including the detective and Janessa’s best friend, seemed slightly flat to me.
The faith element of the story seemed very peripheral. Janessa turns to God for help by reading the Psalms, and it’s mentioned that she has recently become a Christian, a decision which her husband strongly disapproves of.
Although I had an idea what Lyme Disease is, I learned a great deal from Janessa’s ordeal. I had no idea about the so-called “Lyme wars”, in which patients are forced to fight for a correct diagnosis and treatment. Ms. Collins is successful at weaving a lot of true information about the current issues into the story without coming across as “preachy”.
This is another one of those times when reviewing books has given me an opportunity to read something I would have never picked up on my own. I generally prefer something a little bit more pleasant and less tense when I read a novel. Yet I’m glad I had the opportunity to read Over the Edge. I think this book could serve to help raise awareness of the plight of many in the Lyme community. It’s also a well-written story that lovers of suspense novels and medical thrillers will no doubt enjoy.
Over the Edge releases on May 1, just in time for Lyme Awareness Month. Thank you to B&H Publishing for the advance copy of the book.