Bipolar Reads

Some summers, it seems there is a “theme” around books that are released in close succession.

A few summers ago was the summer of amnesia in fiction.

Another one was the summer of “the next Gone Girl” (actually, that’s every summer).

This summer, it seems to be stories of bipolar disorder.

Here’s what I’ve been reading in that category…


If You Left by Ashley Prentice Norton is a super fast fiction read that looks like a beach-y read from the cover, but delves into deeper territory. Photographer Althea is bipolar (what she calls the Tombs and the Visions), and her long-suffering (and deeply successful) husband Oliver and their daughter Clem round out their family. Althea decides this is the summer she’ll get it together – she’ll finally bond with Clem, and she’ll have a more physical relationship with Oliver while they stay in the Hamptons. Needless to say, things do not going according to plan. I read this novel in just a few hours (it’s super quick), and I really got into the first half – the self-description of Althea’s illness, her struggle to fit in, and her weird, WEIRD family dynamics. But then, it just got…strange and felt like it was trying too hard to be salacious and edgy (don’t get me wrong, I love a spicy read, but this was just… not the right book for that). Still, I found it compelling and insightful, if not altogether satisfying for what I was looking for in this novel.

All the Things We Never Knew by Sheila Hamilton is actually nonfiction, and was deeply compelling and imminently readable – it read like fiction, which is a compliment! Hamilton writes of her first marriage to David, who was bipolar and ended up committing suicide after a stay at a facility for his disorder. She writes with honesty and emotion about their highs and lows, their unconventional marriage, and how she moved on. Super interesting – we even picked it for our monthly book discussion title at the library!

Imagine Me Gone by Adam Haslett has been getting a lot of buzz in the fiction market, and details a family that has both a father and a son with bipolar disorder, and how that affects the whole family dynamic. Told in alternating voices, you get the wife/mother, the siblings, and even the son himself talking the reader through the disorder. But for all its cleverness, it just…left me flat. I think it was just “wrong book wrong time”, but I could NOT get into it, no matter how much I wanted to! I ultimately gave it a pass…

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