At first glance, "Eyes Wide Open," the latest novel by Andrew Gross, is a
disturbing tale which seems to have been suggested by the infamous crimes of Charles Manson. (Harper, 412 pages)
The story centers on the apparent suicide of Evan Erlich, a mentally ill young man with very dysfunctional parents. Evan's father, Charlie, had been a promising musician in the wild days of the late sixties before drugs and mental illness sidelined his career.
Charlie married Gabriella, whose psychiatric troubles matched his own. The one bright spot in their tragic lives had been their son, Evan, who had thrown himself off a cliff.
Through a twist of fate and genetics, Charlie's half-brother, Jay Erlich, was spared the predisposition to mental illness and became a successful surgeon and happily married husband and father.
But his personal achievements carried with them a measure of guilt for having attained success while his half-brother barely survived on government disability payments. Compelled by a sense of survivor's guilt, Jay Erlich is driven to investigate the death of his nephew, Evan. What he uncovers is a link between his brother and the the infamous Russell Houvnanian, a serial killer reminiscent of Charles Manson.
Gross has written a story which captures the terror of those horrible days of the Manson family.
In a poignant revelation, the author, Andrew Gross, writes of the suicide of his nephew who had suffered bi-polar mental illness. My condolences to Mr. Gross and his family.