The book tells the story of Deborah Blau, Jacobs and Esthers daughter.
Deborah is a part of a family of immigrants. Esthers father was a farmer in Latvia who has made a fortune by working hard his entire life. All his life he has tried to be like all the rich in the neighbourhood but they never excepted him so he and his family always stayed outsiders that the neighbours despised. He does not think that Jacob is good enough to take care of his daughter so he insists to provide them with everything that they need. He even gives them his big house in Chicago (the house where Esther grew up and where Deborah lived when she was a baby) when they are having financial trouble.
He sees Deborah as a symbol of hope for she can achieve a status that he could never get. That’s why he stimulates Deborah to use her intellect and fight for social acknowledgement so she can get to the top. This strengthens her thought that she is different from other people and she starts to see them as her enemies.
When Deborah is five years old, she is operated on a tumour in her ureter. The doctors that operate her are very insensitive and when they try to comfort her by saying that it will not hurt Deborah can feel that they are lying. This causes her to see all humans as enemies.
Shortly after the operation Deborah’s sister Suzy is born. Deborah is no longer the most important person in the house. She gets very jalous and fantasises that she is throwing her sister out of the window. When her family asks what she thinks about the baby, she says that she will not love the baby and that it is ugly. Everybody is surprised to hear such a cruel answer from a five-year-old.
At school and in summer camps Deborah suffers from the anti-Semitism that ruled in the USA just before WO II, when Hitler was rooting out all the Jews and some Americans agreed with him. Many of Deborah’s schoolmates and some of the teachers detest her because of Hitler’s ideas so they make Deborah feel like the enemy and because the US is at war with Japan, she starts to see herself as a Japanese soldier who is undercover in the US.
Because of her loneliness, she creates her own world: the kingdom of Yr, where she even has an own language.
At first, she is happy there but then Yr. changes into a world where she oppressed and tortured by the gods although there are short moments of happiness in which Yr. gives her comfort.
The situation gets so bad that when Deborah is sixteen she does a suicide attempt (she cuts her wrists in the bathroom) which is really a cry for help.
Jacob refuses to believe that his daughter is insane and wants to keep her home. Esther doesn’t agree with him and talks him into putting Deborah in a psychiatric hospital. Deborah is placed on the B-ward, the ward for the less serious cases because her behaviour is not considered dangerous to herself or others. She visits Doctor Fried, one of the hospitals psychiatrists, every day for an hour treatment in which her past and her thoughts are analysed. Deborah finds this so shocking that she does a second suicide attempt. She is transferred to the D (isturbed)-ward. Her parents are shocked but Dr. Fried comforts them by saying that Deborah is starting to make progress and that she is, after a life without emotions finally starting to feel something.
Deborah finds the D-ward reassuring because everybody tells the truth there and nobody tries to cover up their emotions. She gets aquatinted to Lee, Helene and Miss Coral who teaches her Greek and Latin. Deborah always thought that she couldn’t
make human contact and that she was poisonous but now she meets people who are like herself. She is a part of a group and when Carla comes on the ward Deborah finds out that she is capable of friendship. From the attendant MacPherson she learns that she is not the only one who is suffering in the world. Meanwhile she is making progress with Dr. Fried who she now calls Furii because when the doctor touched her arm once she felt her touch-burning trough her skin. She even shares parts of Yr with the doctor. Every time Deborah opens up for Furii the gods, punish her. When people open up to Deborah she sees that as a gift.
During the three years she spends in the hospital, she learns what caused her decease,
so that one day she will be able to put Yr aside. Deborah’s progress is often interrupted by relapses, For example when Dr. Fried leaves for holiday and Deborah’s new Doctor fails to earn her trust.
After lots of difficulties, Deborah can finally live on her own as an external patient. She finishes high school and gets her diploma but then she panics afraid of her thought that she might never be like other people.
Followed by the voices from Yr she runs to the hospital where they pack her in ice.
After she rested a while she realises that she has to make a choice between Yr and the world. She chooses to live in the real world and says goodbye to Yr.
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