Hiding in Third Person is a riveting coming-of-age tale by talented author, Phil Bradley. It sucks in the reader from the very first paragraph and doesn’t let go.
Ricky is a young orderly at the Cumberland County Asylum for the Mentally Ill, which he jokingly refers to as Cumberland County Psycho Spa and Dude Ranch. An intern asks Ricky to sit with a new patient, known only as Mr. River. It’s Ricky’s job to listen to anything the patient has to say. Soon, Mr. River haltingly begins to tell Ricky a story about an unlikely friendship between two young boys five summers earlier. The two boys, from different walks of life, together faced a vicious killer. It’s a story Mr. River has told before at other facilities but so far, no one has believed him – until Ricky, that is. The only problem is, it may be too late…
Bradley has written a gritty story with an eclectic cast of characters. Seventeen-year-old Malachi Rose is a social outcast who’s ridiculed by his peers, and speaks to imaginary friends, Jack and Ralph. He has special skills in that he can survive in the wilderness and understands the inner workings of many different machines. He runs away from home after believing he has gravely hurt someone.
Malachi’s aunt and uncle, John and Lenore Rose, are a childless couple who consider Malachi’s presence in their lives a blessing. Doc and Chacha Micheletti are cousins and tough gang members with the Latin Kings in Philadelphia who are looking for a way out of gang life. Detective Victor Javier, a former gang member and Philly cop, is willing to put his own life on the line in order to help the Micheletti cousins. All combined and you get a novel that is page turning through characterization alone, but with a core plot that has its own brisk momentum.
Hiding in Third Person seamlessly brings together its cast of unlikely characters in a way that is entirely organic. Despite Malachi’s practically non-existent social skills, Bradley is quick to point out that no man – or young man as the case may be – is an island and all of us need someone we can befriend, even if that someone is in the form of imaginary friends, like Malachi’s two buddies, Jack and Ralph. The richness of these character details is what gives this novel its unique breadth.
A mental asylum and a former nuclear missile launch facility are hardly the settings for a typical coming-of-age novel, yet Bradley manages to create a credible story that incorporates these settings in such a way that it is believable and relatable. Bradley has an authoritative hand on the narrative, keeping it flowing, while also tightly controlled, so new revelations are unearthed at key moments.
Great characters, an unusual setting coupled with a tight narrative and age-appropriate dialogue make for a compelling read that commands a reader’s undivided attention. Hiding in Third Person is truly imaginative storytelling at its finest, and deserves wide recognition.
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