Book Review: Chasing Sophea by Gabrielle Pina

People don’t usually name tornadoes, but that year, Daddy insisted. “Any twister that beautiful and that dangerous can only be female. Reminds me of a woman I used to know named Sophea.” He laughed. “Sophea, Sophea.”’

Not only my favorite line from the novel, but also the opening to ‘Chasing Sophea’, main character Dahlia recounts her father, Lucius, naming the tornado that would eventually be revealed as the source of the wreck that has become Dahlia’s life. Dahlia, her father Lucius, her mentally-ill mother Reva, and her two younger siblings live with a multitude of other family members in the family owned funeral parlor. Set in the deep South, ‘Chasing Sophea’ ultimately tells the story of a once inseparable, but now broken family putting itself back together piece by piece. Although a complicated number of characters are quickly introduced to readers and the twisting plot can become easily confusing, Chasing Sophea was absolutely gripping from start to finish.

Dahlia moves far, far away from her family after “the accident”. She has an impressive job, handsome husband, beautiful daughter, and a life most would be jealous of. But Dahlia is completely unhappy. Often suffering from night-terrors and blackouts, Dahlia realizes something is wrong but has no idea how to fix it and is too stubborn to let her husband, Milky, help. Inevitably causing turmoil in their marriage, Milky is determined to get the woman he married back. Milky had always found Dahlia’s complete departure from her family and everything she had ever known to be strange, but because she seemed so sensitive to the subject, he hadn’t wanted to push her by asking. But with her abnormal behavior and mood swings coming more and more frequently, Milky has no choice but to go behind Dahlia’s back and visit her family in the South to find the truth. What he discovers however, is nothing he could have imagined.

‘Chasing Sophea’ introduces readers to ‘Dissociative personality disorder’, a mental illness often conceived by a person as a self-induced coping mechanism after a traumatic event. Readers discover Dahlia suffers from this disorder in an “Aha” moment, when we realize one of the characters in the book is not a separate character, but actually Dahlia’s alternate personality. Dahlia’s journey to rid herself of the disorder ultimately requires that she come to terms with an intensely traumatic event from her childhood. But will the help and love of her family, who Dahlia has eventually come to lose all trust in, be enough? If you’re looking for an exciting, emotional novel, ‘Chasing Sophea’ is full of surprises.

- Lauren Pytel '14, Libraries Marketing and Events Intern

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