I always struggle with even rating books that are made more for being sad and discussing something difficult. Since I view reading as a form of entertainment its hard to rate pain as a kind of enjoyment.
Juliann Garey takes us into the life and mind of Greyson Todd, a Hollywood studio exec with a wife and daughter whose life seems perfect except for the fact that Greyson has Bipolar 1 disorder.
I went into this book completely blind, not knowing what it was about or what it was turning into. The first pages has Greyson abandoning his wife and child with very little background information and we slowly realize over the course of the book his life and diagnosis. So the first scene is set up for someone not knowing anything about him to think of him poorly but something about Garey’s writing immediately made me it clear to me that this was not a man just abandoning his family.
I have family members with Bipolar. I grew up around people suffering from this. I could almost immediately identify it in her writing even before she ‘revealed’ it and before I bothered to read the back cover. Garey’s writing of this disorder is absolutely crushing and while I have never experienced it first hand, it felt like I was seeing what I have always seen from the outside come true again. I cried over random scenes of him disconnecting from reality, the people around him being confused by his behavior. His mania and depression both seeming so normalized in his head but confusing to the ones around him. The risky behaviors, the arguments over nothing, the quick turns of feelings, the days spent in bed – all giving me flashbacks to my own childhood with a parent with Bipolar.
All that to say this book was ROUGH for me emotionally. Garey really did seem to capture what it must seem like to someone who suffers from this disorder and the writing is really great. A real problem was a constant question of ‘Why this man?’ – there are many people suffering from Bipolar. It did seem kind of weird to focus on a man who has all the privileges in the world other than this. Is it to show how anyone can suffer? Even with a support system and all the money in the world? To show how much this can destroy a life since he falls from so far? Maybe. But it does make Greyson kind of hard to like outside of his disorder. Maybe its just me personally who would have liked to see someone more similar to my own experiences.
There is also a lot of weird sex and even pedophilia at times. I understand mania includes extra sex drive and risky decisions and that combines poorly oftentimes, but I don’t think we needed to see all the scenes we saw to get the picture. I would definitely look up trigger warnings in this area.
Overall, this book felt like a realistic depiction of bipolar disorder and its devastation through lives. However, the main character was unlikable in general and hard to read about at times. I don’t know if I would recommend this to anyone for any reason but I wouldn’t say I hated it either. What is that in star form? I guess I’ll go with 3.
This book was recommended by NPR’s Book Concierge in 2013 (I’m making my way through this list). I listened to it on audio through my local library. Narrated by Dan Butler who did a great job.