Matt Wilven: The Blackbird Singularity

*This book was sent to me for review by Legend Press as part of their Legend 100 Club in exchange for an honest review.

Please be aware when reading that you are at risk of spoilers in some instances.

The Blackbird Singularity Cover

Vince stops taking his lithium when he finds out about his partner’s pregnancy. As withdrawal kicks in, he can barely hold his life together.

Somewhere between making friends with a blackbird in the back garden and hearing his dead son’s footsteps in the attic, he finds himself lost and alone, journeying through a world of chaos and darkness, completely unaware of the miracle that lies ahead.

Never before have I read very few pages and been drawn straight into the beauty of the writing. Matt Wilven brings beautifully written metaphors that leave you breathless. Each word fits in so perfectly to these metaphors and truly brings to life the meaning behind it that you can’t help but wonder how something has never been described this way before. Wilven brings an alternate perspective on Charlie’s cancer that flows and highlights the internal struggle with such an illness that many would find hard to imagine.

“After this I started thinking of Charlie’s brain as a universe plagued by a tiny black hole, swallowing all his stars. He started with a billion, you could see them in his eyes, and the cancer ate them up one by one until there were almost no stars left.”

The Blackbird Singularity is a work of contemporary fiction following the decline and rise of Vince Watergate. Following the untimely death of their first born son, Vince can no longer cope; he breaks out into peals of laughter, he squanders away a lifetime of savings and, after some time in a psychiatric ward, is prescribed a lifetime of lithium to help him to cope with his loss. This novel is about Vince and his attempts to rid himself of the fuzz of the lithium, to become who he used to be and to find himself in amongst the mess that has become his marriage, his job, and his whole life. We are presented with moments of grief, lies, family division, insecurity, issues of trust, and a sense of clarity.

“You loved him so much that you lost your mind.”

I found this novel to be very eye-opening, providing a realistic and truthful view into the lives of those suffering from mental health. Though I cannot in any way relate to those that may have experienced events such as those by Vince and Lyd, Wilven doesn’t hold back in showing the extremities to which Vince’s mind will go to blur the boundaries between imagination and reality thus showcasing the extent to which Vince believes in the truth of what he sees before him. I felt a lot of sympathy towards Vince during these moments fully understanding him and his mind during his times of struggle and uncertainty; his mind presenting visuals of comfort and also disturbance and fear depending on events taking place or to come.

Wilven’s character’s and the relationships between them holds true to the realism of this novel and shows the varying opinions of people towards mental health and those suffering and trying to cope with events happening around them. Many of Vince’s interactions with other characters result in feelings of confusion and puzzlement as well as skepticism towards how he is handling his life and coping with matters. We begin to see issues of family division and insecurity as Lyd’s family question his hold on reality and ostracize him as things begin to get worse. However, there are some characters that accept Vince for who he is such as Jamal, the joint-smoking auto-mechanic who has a more relaxed outlook on life and believes that Vince can overcome whatever is troubling him. It is interesting to see all these character’s from different walks of life and the impact they have on Vince as well as how they perceive him.

The character of Vince goes through a lengthy process in order to develop into the character he is at the end of the novel. Facing bouts of insanity and delusions, being confronted with the truth about his writing career, and journeying through a marriage where both people are on different sides of the fence makes for a lot when it comes to Vince. Though he does fall a couple of times (literally and figuratively), he pulls himself back up and never stops trying to become the best person that he can be. He is constantly trying to impress Lyd and reassure her that he is fine, that he can handle not being on the lithium and all of this makes for a relatable setting in regards to marriage. We see scenes of arguments and disagreements, moments of love and comfort. The dialogue between the two flows and runs like a real conversation between a married couple and brings these characters to life.

This novel is truly beautiful and brings a lot of insight to the issues surrounding mental health and illness, family and marriage. It is a realistic approach that allows the reader to identify with the characters and understand their experiences as well as the lengthy process that is undertaken in order for Vince to become a better person, or as close to the person as he was before. It is a novel that I would recommend for anyone interested in mental health and brings coverage to a topic that needs to be focused on in order for people to truly understand those that are suffering.

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