Doctor Vanilla’s Sunflowers by Bethany Cadman

Review published on June 24, 2017.

Deborah has had a tragic time in her life. Her son is dead, her husband has left, and the pain is too great to manage. She attempts suicide, only to come around in hospital, leading her to try and find a way to continue to live. A therapist, Doctor Vanilla, phones her and offers his services, which she takes up and starts the process of healing and finding meaning in a life that seemed over.
This element of the story is very real, likely relatable to many and often dealt with by media of all types. However, this is only around half of the story, as it differs from others by including a fantasy side as well.

Deborah’s soul became separated from her body during the process of trying to die, and it has gone to a kind of parallel world where it takes on the name Grace. She has the main aim of trying to find Deborah to heal her before their time to conjoin is up.

Both Grace and Deborah meet men who give them a degree of happiness, as well as providing guidance for the new places that they find themselves. This book contains very few characters, which helps you to understand the differences in the worlds easier.

There are some great themes of psychology in the book, mainly centred around the enigmatic Doctor Vanilla and his obsession with dream analysis, and the philosophy of the separation of mind and body – the duality debate – and the value of the mentally ill and a life unwanted, but in such a way that you don’t feel like you’re grappling with these complex ideas. The material switches from chapter to chapter to different worlds and characters but it flows well and didn’t feel too confusing. I don’t usually read fantasy books of any type so this was a good way in for me; I still found it enjoyable and wanted to know what was going to happen. I really loved the yellow cover image and the imagery in the words and ideas. It is certainly something different to what I usually read and I don’t feel there is anything else I can really compare it to in that it’s an original idea well fleshed out into a novel.

Helen Corton 3/3

Doctor Vanilla’s Sunflowers by Bethany Cadman
Mereo Books 9781861516053 pbk Mar 2016

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