(Pressconnections.com, Nov 18, Kevin Lucia)
“The Cloud of Unknowing” is insidiously entertaining, and its chill lingers long after the last page. Raising philosophical questions about truth and insanity, it also tells a haunting tale of a family stalked by a madness it may never conquer.
Raised by a domineering, brilliant but schizophrenic father, David Sears just wants a normal life. Though he’s achieved it with a modest law practice, a loving wife and daughter, he’s haunted by fears that his father’s madness lies hidden within him, awaiting the right moment to appear.
Then there’s his sister Diana, his father’s favorite, the brilliant one. She’s everything their father ever wanted, a walking archive of the knowledge he relentlessly poured into their minds. The family curse rears its head, however, when her son is born with acute schizophrenia.
After her son dies in a tragic accident, Diana loses hold of reality and blames her husband. Her obsession with his guilt touches everyone, including David when she recruits his impressionable daughter to her cause. Where do David’s loyalties lie? With his household, his sister … or the madness that runs in both of them?
The second-person narrative is rarely used effectively, but it’s done so here. Interspersed throughout the novel as a series of police interrogations, it works with the main first-person narrative to draw out the suspense as readers wonder just what happened. We are drawn deeper and deeper into the story, while it delightfully makes us question even the narrator’s sanity.