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Solo Pass Paperback – March 5, 2013


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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Like his debut novel, Calling Mr. King (2011), in which a successful hit man discovers a love for art and architecture and begins to question his profession, De Feo’s latest features a man who must reconcile his past life with his present reality. Mr. Ott is a resident of a psych ward in New York, hospitalized after a breakdown that left him bruised, incoherent, and stricken with fear that he may gradually fade away. But Ott has been rehabilitated enough to earn temporary release. He heads to his abandoned apartment but not before memories of his unforgiving ex-wife and psychiatrist-cum-saboteur threaten to destabilize what precious sanity he’s restored. The remnants of Ott’s former life cause his fragile sense of coherence, as well as his memories about the events that preceded his hospitalization, to unravel. This has been in the works for years, with portions appearing as early as 1988 in the Hudson Review. The result is a quirky, funny tale that forces the reader to question the line between inside and outside, insanity and normalcy, confinement and freedom. --Diego Báez

Review

"A quirky, funny tale that forces the reader to question the line between inside and outside, insanity and normalcy, confinement and freedom." -Booklist Online

"Some parts of the book were really quite funny and others were heartbreakingly sad. The characters were all very human and parts of the storyline kept me guessing. I will definitely seek out more from this author." -Reading in Progress

"In this highly engaging novel, Ott presents his version of events, but we are still able to see cracks in the narrative, and eventually a well-formed picture of what really happened emerges...Ultimately, author De Feo shows that the weight of conformity and a desire to belong to a social group can be both a terrible burden, an overwhelming challenge, and oddly enough a liberating choice." -Swiftly Tilting Planet
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Other Press (March 5, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1590515862
  • ISBN-13: 978-1590515860
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.6 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,002,465 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By TChris TOP 100 REVIEWER on March 7, 2013
Format: Paperback
After two months in a psych ward, a patient who identifies himself only as Ott is given a solo pass that will let him spend part of a day outside the hospital. He earned the pass by learning to play the game, to say enough without saying too much, to gain the trust of the doctors and nurses who probe him with questions. "The trick is to be chatty yet discreet."

Although Solo Pass is written in the first person, it's not clear that Ott is a reliable narrator. He believes he once visited "a quaint little village" in the Cotswalds, although he may have constructed that memory from photographs in a magazine. He vaguely recalls looking bruised and haggard before he came to the hospital but he doesn't remember why. He is careful not to tell staff his true feelings about Prodski, the therapist who "ruins lives." He wants revenge against Prodski but he dismisses those urges as "the leftover thoughts of a once sick mind." Does that kind of self-awareness suggest that Ott has largely recovered, or is he fooling himself? He wants to be the person he once was, but he can no longer trust his life. Whether others should trust Ott is doubtful.

Ronald de Feo deftly portrays the inner turmoil of his mentally ill protagonist. Ott is just a little off in his conversations with others, a little inappropriate, always guarded, never quite achieving the relaxed, natural interaction of people who have less troubled minds. One of the novel's best scenes involves a conversation Ott has with his uncle, as he desperately tries to underplay his obsession with Prodski and to pass off as humor a reference to the gun he left in his apartment. On his journey into the city, Ott is disoriented; nothing is quite as he remembers it.
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By Tyler M. on November 27, 2013
Format: Paperback
I snagged a paperback copy of Solo Pass because the colorful cover art caught my eye and the blurb described a "Dark, unsettling, yet grimly funny" novel. Sure, sounds good! Count me in!
What I found was certainly dark and a little grim, but there is nothing "grimly funny" about it. There are absurd images and interesting contrasts (that are humorous? Maybe?) between the two "worlds" explored, the interior and exterior of a psych ward, but nothing really funny. At one point I laughed out loud at the odd phrasing of, "Wally's sloppy puppy," but that was it. Sorry, I spoiled the one good laugh, and it wasn't even remotely grim. If cowardly impetus and cruel circumstance get you chuckling, then grab this book right away.
The protagonist is interesting because he is fully realized (and you spend half the time inside among his gloomy, exaggerated thoughts) but otherwise I found every other character totally flat. Substantial time is spent describing the other patients in the ward even though they are just caricatures, as if De Feo went down a list of psychological disorders and picked them out: here's the manic-depressive, the man-child, the token sociopath, etc. The supporting cast is also painfully cliche and consists entirely of stereotypes: the taxi driver who gripes about his superintendent, various nosy children who pop in just to shake Ott out of his thoughts and force the plot along so they can disappear a second later, the psychologists who exist only to pry and then smirk with self-satisfaction, every retail employee who is boring and predictable and yet gets a paragraph of needless description. There's a young girl in heavy makeup working at a fancy cosmetics store? Color me flabbergasted.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I loved Ronald De Feo's first novel Calling Mr. King, about a poor kid from a rotten home in upstate New York who grows up to become an international hit man for "The Firm" and, much to his own surprise one day, while strolling through Paris, becomes fascinated with art and architecture and over the course of this novel morphs into an aesthete. The plot and its leading man are like nothing I'd ever read before. Absolutely riveting.

Now, not quite two years later, De Feo's back with an equally offbeat, and compelling tale, narrated by an odd and socially inept man who's spent the past couple of months in a New York mental hospital, recovering from a breakdown after losing his marriage and his editing job. The story opens on the day before he'll be allowed for the first time to leave the hospital and venture out alone into the big city on a "solo pass," and show his doctors and himself whether he's well enough to go back to living on his own. Is he? And if he isn't, can he fake it? This 202-page "day and a half in the life" story makes for an unusual and intriguing read and I'm guessing most readers will be rooting for him all the way.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Harriet Klausner #1 HALL OF FAME on March 23, 2013
Format: Paperback
Almost two months have passed since Ott has been outside alone amongst the conformists, but now feels prepared to venture forth on a Solo Pass while promising his handlers to return to the mental ward that has been his home since his breakdown. He carefully played by their rules answering just enough to sound like he is recovering but not enough so they feel he no longer needs them and especially conceals his loathing towards vicious therapist Prodski, who Ott believes should be a solitary confined patient in the asylum. Ott still is stunned when he is granted a Solo Pass by the staff to the outside world of New York City.

As he ventures forth, Ott's phobia of simply vanishing away increases while he also muses over returning to the Cotswold's village he may be from (or not). Even Ott distrusts Ott as the city of his thoughts fails to match the city he wanders in.

Solo Pass is an intriguing satire told in the first person by Ott, who make a strong case that the difference between lunacy and normalcy is societal definitional acceptance; the norms must not condemn the nonconformist ill. Ott is a superb lead as he never seems quite comfortable with others including inmates whether inside or out and struggles to control his destructive compulsions and his crippling phobias; he is most at ease within his head dreaming of his past that may never have happened. Although the support cast especially inside the mental ward is extremely thin, readers, reminded of Ken Kesey's One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, will relish a New York tour guided by the mind of Ott.

Harriet Klausner
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