Sins And Lovers – Michael Benjamin

(Reviewed by JD Jung)

“Everybody pretends to be a crusader and yet lines his own pocket. “

Yes, that seems to be the norm.  We see it everywhere, and it’s no exception with this particular Israeli mental hospital. Fraudulent activity flourishes between doctors and pharmaceutical companies. But that’s not the only corruption possibly going on.

This story centers oround Jeannie, a social worker, who works at the hospital. When the treasurer  unexpectedly dies, fraud is suspected. It doesn’t help that Jeannie’s long-time friend and fellow social worker, Batya, is committed to the hospital after suffering a nervous breakdown. Could this be from information that she has discovered?

Though Jeannie wants to know the truth and do what is right, those around her may have different motives. She may have been hired due to her father’s influence. Her husband—who may also be having an affair—is about to be awarded a lucrative building contract right next to the hospital, in a gorgeous area overlooking the sea.

Psychiatrists, hospital administrators, auditors and even newspapers have interests in getting certain drugs approved. Also, drug companies want to fight marijuana research for their own gain. On the other side, growers who work on kibitzes don’t want to acknowledge the possibility of negative effects of marijuana on the mentally ill.

Author Michael Benjamin, who is a retired Israeli psychiatrist and medical auditor, gives us a history of the “medication-centric philosophy” in psychiatry and denounces his 1960s training that promoted this viewpoint along with Electroshock Therapy.  It seems that much of that thought still exists today, but for profit reasons.

He successfully weaves this issue into a fascinating mystery and very personal story. Though I initially had trouble keeping track of all the characters and flashbacks, I eventually got it together. Some of the elements seem to be extraneous, which took away from the reading. However, the characters with their own idiosyncrasies and the actual story line kept me engaged.

What I particularly enjoyed was the peek into Israeli culture as I have never been to the country. I appreciated the historical references, taste of Israeli business culture, and the colorful description of Jeannie’s village, Oranit and the outlying areas. I later learned that Benjamin was a founding member of Oranit.

Even with the cultural differences, Sins & Lovers centers on what we can all relate to: issues between family and friends and universal problems such as corruption especially when it comes to the pharmaceutical industry.

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