First review ever. Please be kind.
Mark Lukach and his wife Giulia meet at college and immediately fall deeply in love. Giulia is an ambitious woman whose life goals are to have a great career and three kids by the time she’s 35. Mark wants to be a teacher. After college, Giulia works in New York, while Mark takes frequent trips to visit her. After they move to San Francisco and Giulia starts a new job, she begins experiencing intense anxiety about her job performance. She begins forwarding Mark work emails to read over before she sends them to her boss. Then after one sleepless night, Giulia tells Mark she’s spoken to God and everything will be okay. Next, she’s spoken to the Devil and everything will not be okay.
Overall, I liked the book. Mark is a straightforward writer. I appreciated that he didn’t write a Sparks novel to detail their perfect early years and got to Giulia’s struggles quickly. However, I do wish he would’ve described Giulia more. Not Giulia’s illness or her struggles with maintaining her sanity. Giulia. I really don’t feel like I know much about her as a person. She kicks ass at her various business jobs, hates being in the psych ward and loves Coldplay. I really didn’t get a good sense of who she is and I wondered all throughout the book how much of her behavior was her mental illness and how much was her. Honestly, I wish the book had been written by her, or at least if she’d had more input. I realize it’s Mark’s version of her/their story, but I wish he’d written more about her feelings than his. The majority of the book is about him trying to navigate Giulia’s care in the psych ward. The rules they enforce. Not being able to get much information about Giulia from the nurses. Trying to get Giulia to agree to take medication during a 5150 stay and then trying to get her upgraded to a 5250 so she’ll be forced to take medication that may help her. Eventually, they put Giulia on medications that make her very, very slow to react and make her gain weight (which she later says she hates. Hooray, one whole sentence from a sane Giulia about her situation! Imagine if the entire book were like that). During her first hospitalization, Mark is told he either has to quit Giulia’s job for her or they’ll have to fire her. He chooses to quit, which she never really forgives him for.
I’m of two minds about the focus being more on his feelings. On the one hand, I totally understand that taking care of someone as mentally ill as Giulia is hard and emotional. On the other hand, YOUR WIFE IS HAVING HORRIBLE DELUSIONS ABOUT THE DEVIL, HAS TO TAKE HEAVY MEDICATIONS THAT SHE CAN BARELY FUNCTION ON, HAS LOST THE ABILITY TO TRUST HER OWN MIND AND YOUR TODDLER SON LIKES YOU BETTER THAN HER BECAUSE YOU’RE ABLE TO BE A STAY AT HOME DAD WHILE SHE’S TRYING TO GET HER SIDELINED CAREER BACK ON TRACK AFTER LEAVING THE PSYCH WARD. MAYBE SHE’S HAVING THE HARDER TIME, MARK. JESUS.
So yeah, I kinda had issues with how much Mark is in this book. I realize it’s his memoir, but I just wanted Giulia’s half of the story. He’s not a bad person, or husband and I appreciated that he didn’t sugarcoat his feelings about caring for her. He does admit that he was acting like a petulant child when Giulia, after her first psychotic episode, doesn’t thank him for what he’s done, and instead resents him for how tightly he ran her post-psych ward schedule with therapy, art classes, and exercise. I’d feel the same way in his shoes so I can’t completely fault him for that. Maybe Giulia should’ve been a little more grateful. I’m not sure, because I don’t know enough about her point of view.
I did find the detailed description of how the ward ran interesting and I cared enough about Mark and Giulia to keep reading and find out if she’d be okay. I think if mental illness is a general interest for you, this isn’t a bad book to pick up. It was a remarkably quick read for me (I have ADHD. Maintaining interest in a book is hard. *Stares wistfully at bookshelves full of quarter-finish books*).
….AND FIRST REVIEW FINISHED. YAY!