When Janice Morgan, a divorced college professor living in a small town in Kentucky, learns that her son has been arrested for possession of a stolen firearm and drug charges, she feels like she’s living a nightmare. Dylan’s turbulent period as a college student in Cincinnati before this should have warned her, but it’s only now that she realizes how far he has drifted into substance abuse and addiction. As Dylan passes through the judicial system and eventually receives a diversion to drug court, Morgan breathes a sigh of relief―only to find that she, too, has been sentenced right along with him. In the months to follow, she leads a double life: part of it on campus, the rest embarking upon what she calls “rescue missions” to help Dylan stay in the program. But resilience, dark humor, and extreme parenting can only carry you so far. Eventually, Morgan discovers that she needs to gain a deeper understanding of the bipolar and addiction issues her son is dealing with. Will each of them be able to learn fast enough to face these complexities in their lives? Clearly, Dylan isn’t the only one who has recovery work to do.
Praise for Suspended Sentence
The pacing and suspense kept me engaged throughout. I love how Morgan uses the central narrative of drug court to move the story forward while making room for family reflections, memories, and insights about how mental health issues and substance abuse are often intertwined. The Alice in Wonderland section was particularly illuminating.
Suspended Sentence pulls the reader into the chaotic experience of parenting a child with mental health, substance abuse, and legal issues. Morgan provides an intimate glimpse of the emotional exposure she experienced as a mother—the ups and downs with her son, but also ultimately the personal growth process and self-discovery she gained. This firsthand experience can provide solace for other parents facing similar struggles.
I found this story to be enlightening, even with my many years of service as a drug court judge. The perspective of the family is one that the judge does not get to hear; the author’s insight helped me to see the meaning of ‘I’ll never give up on my child’ in action. It is so very important that people have conversations like this.