Book Review: The Life List Of Adrian Mandrick

Indiana author Chris White bursts onto the scene with her debut novel.

Add the name Chris White to your long list of excellent Hoosier authors. The Indiana resident just published her debut novel, The Life List of Adrian Mandrick, and we have a feeling you’re going to like it. White is an award-winning playwright and screenwriter with an MFA in dramatic writing from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts. Her work Rhythms won the Helen Hayes Award for Outstanding New Play, and she received an Award of Merit at the Women’s Independent Film Festival for her feature-length screenplay, Weasel in the Icebox. Her foray into books seems just as promising. Here’s the Cliff Notes version.

What’s it about?

Adrian Mandrick, an anesthesiologist addicted to painkillers, struggles to balance his secret habit, insecurities, and anxieties with a deep love for his family and genuine desire to care and provide for them. Adrian is also an obsessive birdwatcher, and among serious birders in his region, he holds the third-longest life list, an ever-growing record of each bird species he has observed and identified. As Adrian’s life begins to spiral out of control, he furiously devotes himself to his hobby, looking for solace, meaning, and, perhaps, some semblance of order.

But what is it really about?

Pain, love, mistakes, obsession, the human condition. Also, ornithology. The information about disappearing habitats and species is heartbreaking.

Why should I read it?

White holds readers with a fast-paced story, urgent characters, and just enough mystery to prevent you from sleeping at night until you’ve read one more chapter. And against the backdrop of conservation and eco-consciousness our world desperately needs, Adrian’s story is an achingly melancholic assessment of the ways our actions fail to reflect our intentions. Although not a triumphant story, White weaves a tale of brokenness that allows the reader some hope in regard to both our physical world and inner lives.

Does it have any ties to Indiana?

Chris White

Funny you should ask. Although most of the novel takes place in Colorado and on the West Coast, White drew inspiration from her childhood experiences growing up along the Ohio River in northern Kentucky and her current homestead along Big Walnut Creek in Bainbridge, Indiana. She teaches creative writing at DePauw University, and acknowledges that Indiana’s birds certainly helped her out, even if they’re not as rare as the one Adrian searches out. “Indiana has been my home for 15 years,” she says. “Its seasons, plants and animals, vibrancies and vulnerabilities are dear to me, and it was surely integral to my creation of the urgent environmental themes of the book.”

Can I meet the author?

You betcha. White will be appearing for a talk and book signing next weekend. Here are the details: May 5 at 2 p.m, Half Price Books in Castleton, 4709 E. 82nd St.