“…You are very lucky. Not everyone can feel things as deeply as you. Most people, their feelings are…bland, tasteless. They’ll never understand what it’s like to read a poem and feel almost like they’re flying, or to see a bleeding fish and feel grief that shatters their heart. It’s not a weakness, Grey. It’s what I love about you most.”
Our man Greyson, a successful Hollywood executive with a wife and an eight-year-old daughter, has an undiagnosed mental illness. It’s an unescapable, nameless issue that dictates more and more of his life. Sometimes it’s a boon to his career, boosting his confidence and energy. Other times, he retreats from the world and self-medicates while his spouse covers for him. At the top of his game, Grey knows the only way left for him is down. His bitter memories of his mercurial and pathetic father drive him to abandon his family before he destroys it. He will become a nomad with no ties, someone incapable of hurting anybody but himself.
The reader will quickly understand that Greyson has bipolar I disorder. He cycles from mania (boundless energy, delusions of grandeur, talking too fast) to depression (inability to appreciate things, weight change, sleep disruptions). And because this particular malady, if untreated, worsens over time, in frequency and intensity, his situation steadily spirals out of control. Clever and cynical, his unreliable narration is often a delight. One might almost believe Grey has things under control, except that he throws away his life again and again. His depressive and psychotic episodes are viscerally painful, especially when he sees and hears things that aren’t real—“too bright to hear, too loud to see.” He eventually hits rock bottom and gets the help he needs, but I feel it all came rather late and at too great a cost. As someone who has also been involuntarily hospitalized, I would have preferred to see his “after.” (By the last page, he hasn’t even been discharged!) Without it, his “before” feels a bit exploitative.
Recommended if you like charming knaves and capital “L” literary descriptions, or are curious about mood disorders.