on April 25, 2011
Brandilyn Collins is my favorite suspense author. I read her books not only for the awesome stories but to enjoy her amazing writing. Her books are truly "Seatbelt suspense," and she takes her readers for a wild ride through plot-line twists and turns. If you like suspense, you'll love Brandilyn's books.
Over The Edge, was personal. A tick bite in 1999 started a spiraling decline in my health. As my body fell apart, twenty-three doctors resulted in twenty-three opinions. I was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, lupus, and other equally worrisome diseases.
Not until 2006 did we find the true culprit -- Lyme Disease. By that time, the disease was well rooted in my system. Even as every blood test confirmed my immune system remained horribly affected, and I was termed chronically ill, most doctors were either clueless or refused to believe Chronic Lyme Disease existed.
I had just entered the Lyme Wars.
Over The Edge is a must-read for suspense lovers as well as anyone who has encountered Lyme Disease.
Suspense lovers and Lyme sufferers, buckle your seat belts and head Over The Edge.
Over the Edge: A Novel
on April 13, 2011
Janessa McNeil, Jannie to her friends, had a perfect life: married to a highly respected research physician, mother to a loving nine year old daughter, and living in such a protected community there was little need to set home alarms unless one left on vacation. But something has changed. Jannie, though seldom sick has had the flu for three weeks and wonders aloud if she might have Lyme's Disease. She only thinks to ask because her husband, Brock, is one of the most respected Lyme's researchers in the country. Then comes a day that she falls in the kitchen and later receives a fateful phone call from a mad man; he has secretly infected her with an extremely virulent form of Lyme's and she has 48 hours to change her husband's position on the reality of chronic Lyme's disease.
In Over the Edge, Brandliyn Collins brings us yet another installment of her Seatbelt Suspense with an intensely personal spin. For those who don't know, Collins had her own encounter with Lymes and knows first-hand the battle those who suffer from it must face not only from the disease itself but from a medical community that for all too long refused to acknowledge the disease even existed in any chronic form. Her understanding of the disease and empathy with those stilling fighting in the trenches of the Lyme Wars bleed through on every page.
Over the Edge does something that few novels successfully accomplish. It keeps the suspense clock ticking in a situation that can often seem endless. Any battle with a disease like Lymes has its dramatic moments but is also filled with tedium few could tolerate. There are hours in physician's waiting rooms that often lead to yet more hours in some other waiting room. Batteries of hospital tests are initially filled with nervous anxiety. After that, the poking and prodding and even the pain meld into mind-numbing sameness. Each day becomes like the day before until time all but losses any meaning. So how to maintain the intensity Collins is known for? That is accomplished through a deadline to meet, a villain to confront, and a husband who doubts the severity of Jannie's illness.
Suspense is Collins' game and she doesn't abandon it in the process of relating the very real facts about this crippling and frustrating disease. There is still a bad guy to worry about and seek to understand. Collins uses a technique from her other novels by contrasting the 3rd person detachment of the tortured antagonist with the 1st person immediacy of the plight of Jannie McNeil. Though the villain claims his actions are to change people's minds he is so anchored to the past he is a prisoner to it. Jannie, on the other hand, is locked in battle for the now. Just. One. More. Breath. Just. One. More. Step. And, there is nothing more immediate for Jannie than simply trying to remember what the next word is she needs to say. The result is an unknown enemy threatening from a distance and an ever more terrifying enemy that is present with every breath Jannie takes.
If you know someone fighting a chronic disease, if you are that person, if you just like a good story, read this novel of suspense from Brandilyn Collins. It entertains in a way you will forget you are being taught and teaches in a way you'll be thankful it was more than entertainment.
In Over the Edge, Brandilyn Collins tackles the natural human tendency to attack those least able to defend themselves. This goes along with the propensity to blame innocent people for their disabilities. In the old days, this tendency expressed itself in witch-hunts. Now we see it with cries to balance public budgets by cutting support to mothers and children.
Collins points out a new form of persecution: The unwillingness of influential portions of the medical profession to acknowledge that Lyme disease can have long-term debilitating effects. The refusal has resulted in insurance companies cutting off payments for long-term treatment. Some doctors who have continued to treat chronic cases of Lyme have lost their licenses.
It's such a crazy scenario to anyone who's seen people suffering from chronic Lyme disease that it seems like something out of Kafka. Yet it's true. Collins' fights the insanity around Lyme disease with an imaginative, totally believable story that thrills as it imparts information. I could have read about the disease for days without understanding its impact on those who have it. When I see her main character, Janessa McNeil, struggling to get off the floor in her own kitchen or trying to remember a few words, I get it.
The plot is complex, fine-tuned and surprising. Collins' writing is simple and elegant. It conveys the emotional impact of the disease powerfully. Heroine Janessa McNeil presents herself as a strong woman in the direst circumstances. I'm not going to say anything more about the plot; I don't want to spoil its surprises.
In writing Over the Edge, Brandilyn Collins neatly handles a couple of potential writing snafus that drive me nuts.
The book is sited in Palo Alto, CA, the Stanford Medical Center, and the vicinity. I lived in Palo Alto for six years and in towns within twenty minutes of it for most of my life. I've been treated in Stanford Hospital several times; I've worked at Stanford University.
When an author locates a book in an area I know well, I want to feel like I'm back on my home turf, driving down the streets with her as she describes the scene. I want to feel a jolt of recognition when the landscape and sociological terrain is depicted accurately.
Some authors make mistakes that any local resident will pick up, citing highway names incorrectly and portraying routes that don't exist. That inaccuracy makes me doubt the writer and the story.
Collins gets it right. I felt like I was cruising down El Camino Real as she describes Palo Alto's major thoroughfare. I felt secure with the book's deftly handled details and relaxed into the story.
I was not aware that Collins was a Christian writer when I began this book. As a Christian and a writer, I have strong feelings about the way Christianity and spirituality are portrayed. I hate it when a writer takes me 300 pages into a novel only to turn the book into a vehicle for talking about Jesus. That feels like a con. Just as bad are "spiritual" authors who have angels, devils, miracles, and divine interventions hopping out on every other page. That's doesn't fit my religious experience at all.
Collins's description of her character's interior state as she reaches for the Bible is absolutely spot on. The way Janessa uses Scriptural passages and holds on to particular words or phrases in her despair fits my experience. I felt the parts of the book laying out spiritual phenomena were excellent, indeed among the best I've read.
Why would physicians behave like this? Brandilyn Collin's book shows us a few compelling reasons: professional jealousy, excessive ambition, and the desire for professional advancement. Financial gain if a vaccine or treatment that solves "the real problem" can be created. Or maybe it's just plain viciousness and evil.
on May 23, 2011
My impressions of this novel began with the brilliant cover design. When I ran my finger over the embossed tick near the lower left corner, a rush of memories knocked me back to my own battle with Lyme disease in 1985, when even less was known about it than today. Like other reviewers, the relentlessness of the disease manifestations, the struggle to make sense of any of it, and the villains of both the insect and human variety read with startling and disturbing realism. Brandilyn Collins' ability to twist a plot melded perfectly with the spirochete and its twisted symptoms. It's a book I would recommend (and do) whether the reader wants a breath-stealing suspense or an understanding of Lyme disease and its consequences. Collins made me feel the story in my bones, joints, muscles, connective tissues, and...heart.
on August 1, 2011
Janessa's life seems perfect. Her husband is a well-known researcher and professor. His work affords her and her daughter a perfect life--wealth, beautiful home, the best school. When Janessa gets sick, she and her husband assume it's a bad case of the flu. Instead, it is her worse nightmare. A man calls and informs Janessa that he has infected with her with Lyme disease. To save her daughter from becoming infected, Janessa must convince her husband, who believes chronic Lyme disease doesn't exist, to retract his research findings. Can Janessa save her daughter when her own husband doesn't believe her?
My sister read this book before me and didn't enjoy it, so to be honest, I wasn't expecting much. While the book is not as fast-paced as most of Brandilyn Collins' books (I've read all of them), it is interesting and a good read. Most of Collins' books focus on the action and the suspense. This book spends more time on character development. At the beginning of the book, Janessa is a Stepford wife, making sure the dinner is prepared at a certain time, having the home spotless, making sure she was not a minute late to pick up her daughter. When her illness leaves her so sick she cannot get out of bed, she has to become a fighter just to move. When no one believes she has Lyme, she has to fight to get answers. When her husband questions her ability to care for her daughter, she has to fight to provide for her child. By the end of the book, Janessa is a force to be reckoned with. This development of character is the best I've seen in a Collins' book.
The second thing I enjoyed about the book was the realistic portrayal of the disease and the medical field. While most doctors care about their patients, the patient must be his or her own advocate, pushing to receive the best care possible, insisting the doctors find out the answers. I knew very little about Lyme disease when I picked up this book, but I now feel for those who suffer from this disease. I hope this book will help educate people. I felt the information was presented in a straight-forward manner and was not too preachy. There were a few parts where the "information" slowed down the drama, but it wasn't enough for me to stop reading.
Overall, great book.
on July 13, 2014
In a riveting suspense story, Janessa McNeil is infected by Lyme disease while married to a doctor who specializes in Lyme disease but doesn't believe she has it! After being tested for everything they know how to test for including Lyme, Jannie is sent home to face a scornful husband who is rarely home and a nine-year-old daughter that Jannie realizes she can't take care of. Alone at home and barely able to get around the house, she receives phone calls from someone who caused her infection on purpose, in order to prove to the medical community her husband belongs to that chronic Lyme disease exists. When the man threatens to cause new infections, Janessa works with a local detective to uncover the culprit.
Left untreated, Lyme disease bacteria invade the tissues and organs, causing too many symptoms for most doctors to fathom. Often misdiagnosed with fibromyalgia, multiple sclerosis, chronic fatigue, arthritis, Parkinson's or even Alzheimer's, a Lyme patient can make their painful way through many doctors before finally getting help, and even then must undergo months of difficult treatment. Ignored by the medical community at large, Lyme disease is a growing plague that needs more attention and this novel provides that, by way of a story you can't let go of until the end.
A victim of chronic Lyme herself, Brandilyn Collins knows what she's writing about. I personally identified with most of the main character's symptoms, and it was comforting to read the detailed descriptions of pain, weakness, and mental distortions that occur, as I realized that someone else understood my own struggle. Told so by their doctors, many victims of Lyme disease have probably even convinced themselves at times that their illness is all in their heads, especially when their brains aren't working as well as they should. This book helped to relieve my mind that chronic Lyme disease is real and gave me hope for my own future.
Thank you, Brandilyn, for writing this book!
Brandilyn Collins knows how to write suspense. I began this novel in the afternoon, and I would have cancelled any appointments if I had had any to cancel. I finished it at 11:00 P.M. that evening. It was an absolute emotional rollar coaster ride.
I had heard about Lyme disease, with a few details, but now I know a lot more. Ms. Collins has done a service to the people who have suffered from it-- AND from the medical establishment's bullheaded ignorance (on the part of too many, not all). She herself was a victim of this terrrible disease, so she writes from her personal experience. Also, she doesn't shrink back from a realistic potrayal of some current, unfortunate medical opinions and practices, like those practicioners who assume that if they don't know about it or believe in it, it doesn't exist.
I am glad, though, that I am not one of Ms. Collins' protagonists because she really puts them through it. You'll begin to wonder if and when help will come and if Janessa will somehow miraculously be able to pull her shattered life back together. And you'll want her to.
I appeciate that the author could have piled on the medical terminology from her extensive and knowledge of the disease, but she didn't do that. She included just enough to add plausibility to her story. In other words, the technical parts are there and true-to-life, but they don't hinder the story.
This is a personal story for the author and a gripping one for her readers. And there are life lessons to learn. She's a Christian author, and her writing is honest, straight forward and real. She tells it like it is. Sometimes even for the committed Christian, God seems far away. Often the answers to prayer don't pop up right when you want them to. The few Bible verses she includes are inspirational. For example, I wanted to shake her hand when she included the oh-so wise lesson that it is a wonderful expression of faith, when in the midst of trouble--and even when it looks like there is no way out of it--that the best thing you can do is the seemingly crazy thing of thanking God and even praising Him for that trouble.
But whether or not you're Christian, if you like thrillers, here's one suspenseful tale not to miss.
After a long run of "Seat-belt Suspense" type thrillers full of fast pacing, twisty plots, and compelling plots, bestselling author Brandylin Collins tackles a personal subject in the medical thriller, OVER THE EDGE.
The novel opens with a man breaking into Jannie McNeil's home and putting three ticks infected with Lyme Disease in her hair. Flash forward three months later, and Jannie is very sick, facing symptoms that can't be treated, and having nightmares of a bug eyed man hovering over her bed.
Then she gets the phone call from the bad guy. She's been infected with ticks carrying Lyme Disease, and the only treatment is something the medical community doesn't believe in, and that starts with her husband, Dr. Brock McNeil, a leading researcher on Lyme.
The novel then takes a turn to the unbelievable, which is incredible, because it is all based on real life, and this is the hook of the novel, what will keep you turning pages. The medical community doesn't agree on how to treat chronic Lyme disease, and because of this, many people have suffered for years, and some have died. As we read about Jannie's struggle to remember common words and the incredible fatigue she faces in doing the simplest tasks, we know the author, Collins, is writing from experience.
The bad guy gives her an ultimatum, convince your husband his research is wrong on Lyme, or he will infect more people. This brings Jannie's family into play, and ups the stakes even higher. Can she keep her daughter safe? Can she convince her husband she's really sick?
One downside is the constant portrayal of Jannie's symptons. While they are writtenn gut-wrenching realism, some of it gets repititive after while, and I found myself skipping over several passages.
If anything, this novel will captivate you with the true to life story of the Lyme wars. While I enjoyed the novel, I also enjoyed the education it gave me and the glimpse into the author's real life struggle. Fans will enjoy this novel that surely will have a broader appeal.
on May 4, 2014
I had never heard of the “Lyme Wars”. I did not know that there were physicians that discounted Chronic Lyme Disease altogether, and that there were 1000’s of Chronic Lyme Disease sufferers who have gone untreated. I did not know that there was a bitter discourse between scientists who claimed that the disease does not exist as a chronic illness and those whose research shows the exact opposite. This book sheds a whole new light on the debate. It reveals a breakdown in the careful diagnosis and treatment of Chronic Lyme Disease that has incapacitated an untold many.
Janessa McNeil is the heroine in this story and not only is she suffering from chronic Lyme Disease, she is suffering from the betrayal of her husband after years of marriage and one beautiful daughter later.
Betrayal, in fact, courses throughout the story. There is the personal betrayal of her husband on the one hand, and the larger betrayal of our scientific community in processing data without political or economic gain. Collins brings this to light as she reveals the slant that research can take depending on the coffers lining the academic process.
Collins has put together a meticulous mystery. Her characters are thoughtful and complex drawing insights into human behaviors that confound our whole society. The plot is ingenious, engrossing and kept me guessing.
This is a Christian novel, yet Collins doesn’t orate or offer up fairy tale solutions. In the midst of consummate depravity that would destroy to gain one’s skewed end, in the midst of life’s complicated and painful blows, we see God at work rendering and working good out of evil. That still doesn’t mean that the residue of things broken doesn’t effect us, but it does mean that we can experience “beauty for ashes” if we lift our gaze.
on May 13, 2011
Fiction books normally exaggerate reality. That's part of what makes them so exciting. Amazingly, this book is a work of fiction that isn't so fiction, because the events are close to the reality of life for many people who suffer from chronic Lyme disease. And yet the book is exciting; a page-turner filled with suspense that will keep readers guessing until the end what will happen to Janessa McNeil, a woman who was purposely infected with Borrelia burgdorferi, the spirochete that transmits chronic Lyme disease. The reason? She happened to be married to Dr. Brock McNeil, a famous Stanford University professor who refutes the existence of chronic Lyme disease and who is indirectly responsible for the suffering of thousands of people with Lyme. Infecting Janessa was one of his enemy's ways of exacting revenge against him. But Dr. Brock's reaction to her illness will surprise readers, as will Janessa's response to the devastating situation in which she has found herself.
As a survivor of chronic Lyme disease and the author of two books on Lyme disease treatments, it was painful for me to read Janessa's story, because I have lived certain aspects of her story myself. The agonizing pain, brain fog and fatigue that she suffered on a daily basis; the disbelief of the medical community and family members when she told them what was wrong with her, and the loss of important relationships due to the lack of support from loved ones. Finally, like Janessa, when I became sick with chronic Lyme disease, I felt as though I had lost who I was, and the real "me" didn't come back for over half a decade. Indeed, I related all too well to much of her suffering. But like Janessa's story, there was redemption in mine, as God has used my battle with Lyme disease to teach me many powerful lessons, which I now share with others.
Insightful and intriguing, Brandilyn Collins does a superb job of creating an exciting, eventful story with many powerful lessons interwoven in its pages. I highly recommend this book to anyone who wants to know what it's like to jump into the body of a person with chronic Lyme disease, as well as to anyone who is simply looking for a riveting suspense story.
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