Mount Misery

Following The House of God, his best-selling 1977 novel about the ordeal of medical-school internship, Samuel Shem turns in a terribly ambitious, highly uneven tale about a year’s residency at a psychiatric hospital. Mount Misery is fueled with manic energy and hilarious characters but, alas, suffers itself from a kind of literary multiple-personality disorder: part satire, part expose, and part coming-of-age tale. The satire works best, particularly when aimed at academic shrinks who write theoretical research papers so brilliant that even their colleagues can’t understand them. To make Mount Misery succeed on all three levels, however, would require an extraordinary control of tone and point of view — something Shem simply can’t seem to muster. B

Mount Misery
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