Reviewed by Ranga Rajah
Sixty seconds is all it takes for lives to change, and forever. It's the time that most of us take to stare at a ceiling or put up with the commercials between our movies or soap operas. What I mean to say is we rarely give a mere sixty seconds any thought at all. But in Sanita Fejzic's debut novel, Psychomachia, the lives of her characters, Judith Belovic and Gabriel Dumont, change dramatically when the doctor at the hospital tells them that their daughter Anne’s death ‘had taken only about a minute.’
This captivating book is a journey through the minds of two parents tortured by the death of their only daughter, a victim of cyber-bullying.
The crime was perhaps a spur of the moment act, maybe just messing around for the sake of fun and then posting it all on social media—we have all heard the stories. But what really goes on in the minds of a bully? Would it be any different if there was an option to pause? Many such questions are raised and answers offered by the author.
Judith's daughter, Anne, commits suicide after her post-rape photographs go viral on social media. It is the beautifully woven narration after this brief description that keeps you hooked on Psychomachia. Judith’s ‘fatigue’ of having to go through the daily motions of living is captured beautifully. Her disconnected thoughts recalled at a different time, context, trying hard to stay in the present by checking her Instagram out of sheer boredom, just to find some meaning perhaps, grab and hold the readers' attention.
And then Judith’s personality changes from this listless, bogged-down-by-life woman to someone in total control of her emotions and bent on revenge.
Fejzic meticulously sculptures the story by delving deep into the psyche of the characters and giving them outlets to express themselves, helping them to both unsettle and stabilize their emotions. This is perhaps best exemplified in a poignant scene where Cal, one of the four bullies Judith confronts, unleashes his frustrations in a fit of yelling, throwing wet earth and even punching his penis. The reason for his frustration? He was identified as one of the bullies by everybody including his parents just because he happened to be there out of fear from being bullied by the other boys in the group. And then, Cal’s girlfriend at the university leaves him when she learns of his past.
Psychomachia takes the readers into the inner realms of bullies being bullied. The loss of Anne turns Judith almost into a bully as she prepares to kill Cal. But she pauses and spares him. And her clemency results in Cal finally deciding to tell the RCMP who the real culprits are.
Psychomachia is published by Quattro Books.