I choose wonder + “A Madness So Discreet” by Mindy McGinnis

Right now I’m totally frustrated.

Let me explain. Did you ever have someone in your life that collected advice by the bucketfuls, from you and everyone you loved, sucking time from you all like a vampire sucks blood, and then doesn’t take one piece of that advice and incorporated it into his life? Even when everyone is giving the same advice?

This is my frustration right now.

But, because it’s Friday, and because my girls are not in school right now (teacher in-service day), and because it’s supposed to be a cool, beautiful fall weekend, I’m going to attempt to rid my self of the frustration and choose the wonder of life, and to put on the screen. Here’s my wonder for today:

  • It’s fall and it’s October, and I live in a place with beautiful colors. I live in a land full of pumpkins and apples and mums. I live in an area where fall is the best season, and this weekend is the culmination of that season.


  • Tomorrow (Saturday, October 17th) is Dewey’s 24 Hour Readathon . Not quite sure who Dewey is (except that she seems to be the person who started this), but it is a day of reading all day and talking about it. My kind of day, especially on a chilly fall day. (FYI, this is a twice-a-year occurrence: April and October. I rarely get to participate, because of mom duty and other stuff).
  • I got to have coffee with friends yesterday.
  • I got to have coffee all by myself today.
  • There are so many beautiful things in the world, and, thanks to the technological advances in cell phones and the wonder that is the internet, these things get shared and seen by millions of people. Beauty gets noticed.
  • Humor is everywhere, if you just have the right eye to see it. Just like beauty, there is humor in everything. And I have a husband who is really good at finding that humor.
  • My younger daughter got a guitar a couple of days ago. My daughter with Down syndrome is going to learn to play the guitar. She will never have to utter those lines from the Dire Straights song “I should have learned to play the guitar.”


  •  I have a messy, beautiful life. The proof is in the above picture. We have a happy kid playing her new green electric guitar (I’ve named it Shamrock, or Emerald, or Leprechaun) next to a random broiler pan, an old drawstring backpack, dirty windows, and a boxer’s tail. In the middle of the mess sits a kid thrilled beyond belief with the thought that she can make music.
  • Above is a microcosm of a happy life. It’s messy, and disorganized, and never predictable. But you go on, and you find the beautiful, the wonder, the humor in it all.
  • You have to love with all your heart, and hang onto the good. Because there will be rough, their will be bad. But what makes it all bearable is remembering the good, the beautiful, the humor. Because, on the other side of all that hard stuff, the good, beautiful, funny stuff is waiting. You have to have the rough to appreciate the smooth.
  • Last thing for today: remember to laugh, look, and love.
  • One more last thing: when all else fails, there’s coffee, chocolate, and wine.


Okay, onto an awesome read by a local AND a favorite author: A Madness So Discreet by Mindy McGinnis.

“She doubted that hell was hot and sulfuric. Instead she imagined it was comfortable and smelled like her own bedroom.”

 The Premise

Set in the 1890’s, this is a story of asylums and lunacy, although the darkest of the lunacy is not within the asylum walls.

The heroine of this story is Grace Mae, a young woman (I’m guessing she’s in her late teens) from a prominent Boston family. Grace is confined to an asylum in Boston, sent there to hide her unwanted pregnancy by her father, who is also the father of her child. Although she wasn’t before her confinement, Grace has been driven slightly mad by the sadistic manner of her keepers and the actions of her family, and she ends up in the deepest dungeons of the asylum, where her life begins anew.

There she meets Dr. Thornhollow, a man who takes notice of her intelligence. After an escape, Grace and the doctor head to his new home, a small Ohio town and a much more liberal asylum.

Thornhollow is a different kind of doctor, one whose interest lies in dissecting crimes and the criminal mind. He realizes early on that Grace has an eye for detail that meshes perfectly with his insights.

Once in Ohio, Grace is finds friendship and purpose to her life, and she begins the process of healing. By becoming Watson to Thornhollow’s Sherlock, Grace find some sanity in an insane world. But, when the ghosts of her past threaten her, Grace finds the only way to hang onto her real self is to embrace the madness around her.

My Thoughts

What a wonderfully dark read! I loved being pulled deeply into the 19th century and the madness that not only lived in asylum walls, but everyday life as well.

I heard about this book awhile ago, while Mindy was at a local bookstore talking and signing copies of her first two books, Not a Drop to Drink and In a Handful of Dust. McGinnis did a lot of research, including visits to an Athens, Ohio asylum. She told us this was her first adult novel, although this is touted as a YA novel. It is definitely more adult than her other books (which I let my daughter read at 10 and 11), and a true novel for young adults, meaning those who are legal adults, or at least are close to it. The subjects of this book are very adult; ranging from incest to rape to syphilis to murder.

(On a side note, I’m going to rant for a second. Most young adult books are written for just that, young adults. I would say 16 is the youngest age for a reader of young adult novels. But the marketing of these books is getting younger and younger, or the category is too broad. The book industry needs to start expanding the teen and middle grades books. Okay, rant over.)

But, beyond all that, this adult LOVED A Madness So Discreet. It was interesting and well researched, and incredibly engrossing. Thornhollow and Grace are the perfect American (and modern, although the book is historical) Holmes and Watson. The contrasting asylums and their approach to mental health is also incredibly interesting.

There are so many facets to A Madness So Discreet. Early criminal profiling, the treatment and diagnosis of the mentally ill, incest, revenge, and even women’s suffrage. McGinnis takes all subjects and weaves them into a very interesting story without missing a beat.

This dark tale is highlighted by Grace, an incredibly flawed heroine that wants the best outcome, even if it costs her. She makes some wrong turns and choices, but for the right reasons. As a reader, I appreciate a well-written, haunted character with understandable flaws.

I give this one 4.5 stars. I really hope McGinnis decides to write more on these characters. Thornhollow and Grace are perfectly suited, and their partnership could easily lead to more sleuthing.


3 thoughts on “I choose wonder + “A Madness So Discreet” by Mindy McGinnis

  1. I just started reading this and love it so far. I have a fascination with asylums and the history of mental illness. So I started watching scary movies about asylums and researching some famous ones in the US. I’m hoping it holds up to my expectations.


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