Matthew Unstrung

Overview

In 1910 Colorado, Matthew's father, a fire-and-brimstone preacher, wants his son to follow him into the ministry. Caught up in a dream he can't fulfill, Matthew's sanity begins to falter until he is whisked away to his brother's ranch where he finds tough love and common sense. This gripping tale, spun from memory, history, and emotion, is based on the life of the author's grandfather. 240 pp. Ages 11 and up. Pub: 4/98.

A 17-year-old boy who has suffered a mental ...

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Overview

In 1910 Colorado, Matthew's father, a fire-and-brimstone preacher, wants his son to follow him into the ministry. Caught up in a dream he can't fulfill, Matthew's sanity begins to falter until he is whisked away to his brother's ranch where he finds tough love and common sense. This gripping tale, spun from memory, history, and emotion, is based on the life of the author's grandfather. 240 pp. Ages 11 and up. Pub: 4/98.

A 17-year-old boy who has suffered a mental breadown in the early 1900s is able to regain his sanity with the help of his brother.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
This taut first novel takes a grim topicthe treatment of the mentally ill in 1910and manages to transform it into a positive story of the bond between brothers and the slow but certain healing power of love. Anxious and eager to please his harsh clergyman father, dutiful Matthew toils away at a Nebraska Bible college, rebuffing his older brother Zack's invitation to come west to his Colorado ranch. But with failing grades and his father's disapproval looming, Matthew's terror and depression mountuntil he catastrophically breaks down and is abandoned by his parents. Some readers may find the description of Matthew's stay at a mental hospital an unnerving interlude of strait jackets, chokings, gruel and dank basements. But Matthew's rescue and Zack's subsequent patient hand in his recovery under the clear Colorado skies is both riveting and moving. Seago is a welcome fresh voice with a dual talent for creating memorable characters and a sweeping plot that gathers readers into its momentum. Ages 12-up. (Apr.)
Children's Literature - Kathleen Karr
It's the turn of the century and Matthew has been forced into studying theology at a Bible college by his overwhelming minister father. Unable to handle the pressure, the seventeen-year-old suffers a mental breakdown. Matthew is abandoned by his father and well-meaning but ineffectual mother to an asylum for the insane. The savage treatment nearly destroys him forever before his older brother carries the catatonic young man off to his ranch in Colorado for a therapy of caring and affection. Seago based the story on the experiences of her own grandfather, and the insights into period mental institutions are brutally fascinating.
VOYA - Victoria Yablonsky
Matthew Hobson is trying to live up to the expectations of his demanding yet emotionally detached father, a conservative Methodist minister. It is 1910 and Matthew is at Priory Bible College in Nebraska, studying to fulfill his father's wishes and follow in his footsteps. Matthew's older brother, Zack, unable to meet their father's demands, left their Wisconsin home to make a life in Colorado. Zack has built a ranch there and wants Matthew to share it with him, but Matthew feels trapped in his father's dream. The conflicting demands of his father and brother, and his own needs and fears, lead him into a spiral of falling grades, expulsion from college, and an emotional collapse. He withdraws into himself, unable to speak, and is institutionalized. His mind seems as a string unstrung from the forbidden fiddle he loves to play. His father abandons him, believing him to be shirking his duty, but Zack rescues him from the asylum and takes him to the ranch. Zack and a young woman he hires to help care for Matthew together try to free him from his prison. When they give him his fiddle, Matthew finally finds the means to allow his bottled up emotions to emerge-through his music. The story possesses the flavor of life in the midwest at the time, but the descriptions of the institution where Matthew is held and the reactions of the doctors, the guards, and Matthew's father provide the most vivid pictures. The lack of understanding of mental illness and its treatment should be revealing to today's young adults. VOYA Codes: 3Q 3P J S (Readable without serious defects, Will appeal with pushing, Junior High-defined as grades 7 to 9 and Senior High-defined as grades 10 to 12).
School Library Journal
Gr 5-9Matthew Hobson, unable to live up to the expectations of his domineering preacher father, flunks out of school despite an almost superhuman effort to succeed and falls into the depths of mental illness. His father, believing that Matthew should be able to heal himself through prayer and faith, allows his son to be institutionalized, where he undergoes the horrors of early 20th-century treatment for the mentally ill. Matthew's brother, Zack, who escaped his father's harsh and unforgiving regime by moving to Colorado and becoming a rancher, manages to take custody of his sick, and by now completely unresponsive, brother and moves him to his ranch. Zack and Casey, a local girl with a romantic interest in Zack, care for him with a mixture of love, patience, and at times brutal restraint. By the time his father dies, Matthew is clearly on the road to recovery. Seago tells a story that is heartwarming, if at times overly simplistic. It shows early attitudes toward mental illness, its myths, and barely enlightened treatments. Rich images of ranch life in the West complement the plot, which is evenly paced, interesting, and informative. Characters are memorable, but their motives are not always clear or convincing, and their growth and change is at times awkward. Nevertheless, the power of love and compassion comes through clearly.Tim Rausch, Crescent View Middle School, Sandy, UT
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780803722309
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated
  • Publication date: 4/1/1998
  • Edition description: 1 ED
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 240
  • Age range: 11 - 17 Years
  • Product dimensions: 8.58 (w) x 5.80 (h) x 0.92 (d)

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