Mind of a Stranger by Ruth J. Hartman

Mind of a Stranger by Ruth J. Hartman
Publisher: Turquoise Morning Press
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Short Story (129 pages)
Rating: 4 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

How do you escape a stranger when the stranger is you?

Shelby Wright has the life she’s always wanted: a loving marriage to Charlie, her best friend, companion, and lover. She can’t imagine anything ever coming between them. They’re so close, nothing ever could.
But when Shelby’s mind begins to play tricks on her, little annoyances grow. She’s plagued with doubts when she can’t remember whether she’s done something. A voice in her head plants an unease that she can’t ignore. Then at her job, everyday occurrences that never bothered her before seem larger than life. Suddenly, life is more than she can handle. What’s happening to her?

When her thoughts take a dangerous turn, she’s scared out of her wits. And she can’t tell Charlie because the woman he promised to love, honor, and cherish has been overtaken by a monster Shelby can’t control.

It’s hard to treat a disease when you can’t even admit you have it.

Charlie is such an affectionate and attentive spouse. The best scenes involve him trying to help his wife in any way he can long before either of them know what is happening to Shelby. The text says they’ve only been married a year, but Charlie and Shelby have such a strong emotional bond that it felt to me like they’ve been together for decades. This isn’t a romance novel by any stretch of the imagination, but his devotion to her brought a much-needed sweetness to Shelby’s tale.

It came as a surprise to me, then, that Charlie takes so long to realize something odd is going on with his wife. Most of the couples I know who are as close and loving as these two would have a difficult time keeping such a big secret from one another. I briefly theorized that he was in denial, as this is a common reaction for friends and family members of people living with mental illness. This is a minor criticism of an otherwise engrossing tale, but I would have appreciated it if a reason was given for why Charlie overlooked so many of the signs that show up early on in the tale. It would have been helpful to know if my theory about why he acted that way was correct.

This short story is an illuminating look at what it’s like to live in a mind that feels like it’s spinning out of control. There are times when it’s extremely difficult to understand why someone living with diseases like the one mentioned in this book say and do certain things . As someone who has a loved one with a similar disorder it was extremely interesting to see what it feels like to experience the more severe symptoms from the perspective of the patient.

Mind of a Stranger is an unforgettable and compassionate snapshot of living with mental illness. I would especially recommend it to friends and family members of people who have been diagnosed with any type of anxiety disorder. This is a must-read!


  1. I love the tiotle. That alone has me wanting to buy the book

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