The Life List of Adrian Mandrick: A Novel by Chris White


There are temptations in this world and there are signposts. This, he does believe. The trick is to distinguish between the two.

How do you distinguish what is true from the wreckage of your childhood memories if you never confront the source of the poison?  Adrian Mandrick is a husband, father and anesthesiologist with a pill problem. When he isn’t escaping his trauma with his bird obsession, he is ruining his marriage and collapsing under the weight of his memories. As a young boy, his estranged father slipped a heavy dose of truth into the loving bubble he lived in with his mother. Everything he felt for her is tainted by this sickening crime she committed, and a gulf opens wide between them until he finds himself out of her life. After she attempts to reach out to him, he ignores her calls and sinks deeper into the drugs that comfort him, and his hunt for elusive birds. This isn’t the first time he abused pills to silence the pain in his body and his heart.

Adrian’s list of birds is a lifelong catalogue, with the death of a ‘legendary birder’ he has the chance to be on top and figures finding a rare ivory bill woodpecker will secure his success. Instead he finds himself stuck in the muck of the Florida panhandle, where his past is lurking and everything he thought he knew about his mother and an incident will be upended. His marriage is spiraling into a dark hole, thanks to his addiction and indiscretion with another woman but it’s the past that is the true beast tainting all he holds dear.

No one knows the painful secret he has allowed to fester, most just see a successful man whose obsession with birds is more than just a hobby. His brother thinks he’s arrogant, ‘too good’ for their mother, his wife feels neglected as his all consuming obsession with birds, his disappearing acts leaves her living like a single mother. Conservation seems hopeless for all the species of birds, but it’s his mind and family that need saving. He loves his children, believes they deserve to enjoy the bounty of youth, the careless happiness he himself never had. But it’s getting harder and harder be around them when he is sinking in his screaming thoughts and drug induced fogs. Though Stella attempts to confront him, he has excuses at the ready to brush her off. Then there is the mother he is avoiding, he once loved his mother with all of his being too, ‘She was his mother, his life raft, his home. How can this be turned upside down, flooded, ruined,’ until he couldn’t anymore.  How could resentment, anger become so vile as to destroy a child?

How long has Adrian’s emotional absence been brewing? Just how much do we really keep for ourselves, how much can one keep hidden from our loved ones without being swallowed whole, without losing them? How much can we hide from ourselves? He is about to find out. Through birdwatching and drugs Adrian is disappearing, he is tortured by the past and self-medicating as to cease feeling anything at all. It’s interesting to think he haunts himself, that memories from our childhood are easy to muddy in careless hands. It’s hard to make my point without giving away secrets, but the saddest thing of all is that other people can sever bonds between people and change the trajectory of an entire life. How much of the present do we give to the past?

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