The Life List of Adrian Mandrick by Chris White
eBook review copy; 288 pages
The Life List of Adrian Mandrick by Chris White is a recommended debut novel that examines a life falling apart.
Adrian Mandrick is an anesthesiologist and avid birder living in
Colorado. He loves his wife, Stella, and their two children. He is
dedicated to adding birds to his life list of 863 species correctly
identified and cataloged. It is the third longest list in the
North American region, but the number two list holder just passed away,
so, if he can find more rare birds to add to his list, Adrian can move
up to the number two spot. He is also addicted to painkillers and
allowing that addiction to take over his life, again, while avoiding
replying to a call from his estranged mother.
Adrian is avoiding discussing his past and his current addiction with
anyone. In his past, his mother ran away from his father with him and
brother. A year later his father found them and told Adrian
that his mother had molested him when he was too young to remember.
That day marks the first time Adrian used pain pills and when he began
distancing himself from his mom. Adrian first learned his love of
birding from his mom. Now he avoids any contact with her, so when she
tries to contact him, he avoids her and turns back to using pills.
While Adrian's obsession with birds and pills is well-researched and
well-covered, White gave me no reason to sympathize with Adrian and his
psychological problems. (I will admit to having flashbacks to what I
will call "the klonopin novel" as various and sundry brand names
of different pills were thrown out.) In many ways this novel would have
been more successful and believable had Adrian submerged himself in his
addiction with birding, skipping the whole pain pills abuse, because
his love of birds is the most interesting obsession. Or tie his
addiction to both pills and birding more completely to his childhood and
that one memorable day.
Adrian is the only character that is looked at in any depth, which left
the rest of the characters feeling like stereotypes, but even Adrian's
concerns are referenced, but never completely scrutinized. Adrian's
heritage along with global warming and changing habitats of birds are
both mentioned, but never explored further. Mentioning buzz words or
current concerns in a novel is not the same as exploring how these thing
actually shape a character's personality or his thought patterns.
The emotional ending does succeed in redeeming some of the parts of this
underdeveloped novel, but it never set itself apart as one of the best
My review copy was courtesy of Touchstone.