Review -Opening Gates by Nancy King

Synopsis:Summer, 1956. With her parents away and her boyfriend abroad, Rennie is on her own. To make money for college, she takes a job as a recreational therapist in a large mental hospital in New York City, despite her reluctance to sign a loyalty oath in the charged times of McCarthyism. She has no relevant experience, but she’s good at sports. How hard can it be? Very hard, she discovers.As Rennie struggles to relate to the confused, emotionally unpredictable women and challenging hospital administrators and staff, she is befriended by a troubled young man with a passion for jazz, meets a wise Middle Eastern restaurateur, and after an accident on her motor scooter, becomes three construction workers favorite “damsel in distress.”Too stubborn to quit, Rennie finds meaningful ways to connect with her patients and creates previously unimagined opportunities for them. She also discovers a new, stronger part of herself. By summer’s end, no longer dependent on other’s opinions, she can listen to her heart and conscience and make crucial changes in her own life.

The story is told in first person from the perspective of Rennie, a 19 year old college  student. When we meet Rennie, she is timid and has allowed fear and the expectations of others to overhadow her wants and desires. She has taken the job as a recreational therapist because its good money and will be enough to help her cover her tuition when school starts. The story starts a little slow but the pace picks up as Rennie begins to learn about the life at the mental hospital and also about herself.

I think the characters were well developed and authentic for the time period. Rennie learns so much about herself over the summer and I was pleasantly surprised at how much confidence she had gained. Rennie learned life lessons that sometimes are not learned until people are much older after many regrets. I also think the author did a good job with relaying the details that are accurate for the 1950s. It was a different time period for women as well as mental health. Being a mental patient had a totally different meaning than it does today. Overall, good read for anyone who likes to read about personal growth and self discovery.

 

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