Life Long by Ronald L. Ruiz is a fascinating book about a man with schizophrenia who is doing his best to survive in a world that does not understand him. We first see Ray in court for traffic citations but the judge decides to go easy on him. Ray then meets a cop that tells him they are watching his ex-con cousin Billy who Ray has been hiding money for. Ray starts to panic thinking the police are watching him too and decides the best thing he can do is go on the run. He’s been hiding Billy’s money in a church where he has been working as a caretaker. He grabs the cash and catches a bus going from California to Laredo Texas.
The journey by bus is a hard one, he’s on the run from the cops, Billy and the voices in his head. The problem is that what Ray is running from may not be real. After having a breakdown and spending time in a psychiatric hospital he now has a prescription for Zyprexa to keep the voices away. He only has so many pills with him and getting a refill will be a problem. He travels from Central California to Los Angeles to Phoenix to Dallas and finally to Laredo. Along the way he meets several people, some are friendly and some have their own agendas and are just trying to get his money. Ray’s worst enemy is himself because he doesn’t know who he can trust.
You really feel for Ray, he constantly argues with himself over the right thing to do but he can never stop thinking and sees conspiracies everywhere. The one person he does trust is his reverend but when he passes away Ray doesn’t know where to turn. Ray also spends time with a foster family but as his condition worsens the situation in the home becomes dangerous. My favorite part of this book was when Ray meets a girl who has the same condition he has and he tries to help her even though he needs help himself. Ray is a good person but he is unable to deal with reality without the right medication.
Not only is this a character study in what the life of a schizophrenic is like, it also looks at other problems. It talks about the dangers of traveling long distances as a poor person or as an immigrant and what they have to put up with. They don’t have the money for other transportation and have to take buses and put up with substandard conditions. There is one scene in the book where the bus riders are dealing with a broken bathroom door along with the strong odor within and the driver does nothing about it.
Life Long is a well written masterpiece and a good look at what people with paranoid schizophrenia go through. This book is real life for some people and its both heartbreaking and hopeful. Heartbreaking because of the injustice Ray puts up with and the people who are just trying to swindle him. It’s hopeful because we also see people who care and try to help him even though they don’t know him. There are all kinds of people in this world and Life Long shows us the good, bad and the misunderstood.