September 04 , 2007


a novel


Larry Olson, a twenty-two years old conscientious objector, is sentenced by his draft board during the Viet Nam war to spend two years of alternative service on the back ward of a mental hospital. At odds with his family, country and himself, he dreads working there. Then, on his first day, he learns the chronic schizophrenics pose less danger to him than certain "sane" staff members. To complicate matters, Larry soon gets drawn into a nasty power struggle between the ward psychiatrist and psychologist, who espouse different forms of treatment. He also becomes entangled in a thorny, romantic relationship with Rhonda, an aide, which forces him to face his sexual hang-ups. Meanwhile, the ward becomes unmanageable for no apparent reason. Even high doses of tranquilizers fail to quell the violence and sexual activity among patients. Larry eventually figures out the cause for these mysterious happenings. In the process, he also succeeds in putting his own demons to rest.

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