Brian’s Journey is an emotional memoir about your son and the grief you felt when you lost him. What inspired you to write this book?
I truly believe it was/is to help other families that have gone through the horrific loss of losing a child, they are not alone. Also, I felt so strongly whilst writing that Brian wanted his story told. Mental illness can happen to anybody at anytime. It came on so fast with Brian, and although we will never know if it was the steriods, pot or the hit on the head that caused his paranoia.
I appreciated the candid nature with which you told this story. What were some ideas that were important for you to focus on in this book?
I tried to focus on the positive. Not to allow the darkness to take over my life. It was not easy. With all the signs I kept receiving while writing, I knew there was a higher power at play. I learned that my son was /is still around in spirit and that his energy just changed form. I forced myself to look at all the beauty around me and not the negative. Brian did that, and helped me heal and look forward to completing my journey, however long that may be.
What do you hope is one thing readers take away from Brian’s Journey?
The hardest thing about coping with loss, in my opinion, was the shear suddenness of my son passing away. It was a shock and happened so fast. When I knew my brother was sick or my mom, you knew the inevitable of their passing would eventually happen. I had no idea that morning my son would be gone from this earth. All my hopes & dreams were shattered beyond words.
What do you feel is the hardest thing about coping with loss? And what is one piece of advice you would give to someone?
My advice to any parent losing a child or loved one…. it really is not the end. Spiritually, it’s only the beginning for our loved one. Our turn will come when our journey is complete. We are all spiritual beings having a human experience, know & believe we will be with them again. Each and everyday we are one day closer to that Heavenly Reunion. Talk to them and listen to your heart that they hear you. They are never far to comfort you in your time of need. Remember, love never dies and we take it with us when we pass from this life to the next.
Posted in Interviews
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Hinterland by LM Brown is about Nicholas Giovanni and his love for his daughter Kate. That love is apparent throughout the novel. Kate’s mother, Kathleen, is mentally unwell and the arrival of Ina, Nicholas’s childhood best friend, sends her over the edge. Violence ends with Kathleen admitted to the hospital. Nicholas can’t bring himself to tell Ina the truth about Kathleen’s last day, nor can he tell Kate the truth about where her mother is, and this secret ultimately causes Kate to run away. Kate running away forces Nicholas to confront these truths.
Hinterland is about dysfunctional families and mental illness. Understanding mental illness is important, yet we still live in a world where it has a stigma attached. This book explores that stigma. The opening has a very gloomy feeling, which for me captures the way Nicholas seems to feel. His entire life centers around driving his taxi and his daughter and not much else. With the return of Ina and Kathleen being admitted to the hospital, it ought to have been an opportunity for Nicholas to come out of the gloom. But he seems afraid to do that and is weighed down by the burden of what happened the day Kathleen was admitted to hospital. I struggled to find a connection to Nicholas. I could sympathize with Ina, with her frustrations at being back with the man she loves, yet only being fed breadcrumbs from him. She almost has a family life with the relationship she develops with Kate, yet Nicholas keeps her at arm’s length, his secrets building a barrier between him and all those he loves.
The pace of the book is slow, building up the tension to the end of the book when Nicholas must try to rescue his family. I found the first half of the book to be slow, but I understand that was necessary to build the story. I think there was the potential for more drama and conflict, although given his past, it seems apt that Nicholas strives to avoid this. He is a silent, brooding character, keeping many parts of himself locked up, even from those who love him. I would have preferred to see Nicholas open up a little more though, he was difficult to connect with. The book does a great job of trying to portray the difficulties involved in living with mental illness in the family.
Pages: 338 | ISBN: 1947917587
Broken Melody is a contemporary fiction novel that follows the life of Alana, alias Sunshine, and her assorted friends. Nikki Haase drew motivation for writing this book from Casey Clayton, her friend’s journey of addiction, recovery and death. The book is a voice for those struggling with drug addiction, depression and other mental illnesses. Alana was the perfect daughter and student, acing her grades and making her parents proud. But deep down she was fighting monsters that only she knew of.
Nikki Haase has an enthralling way of introducing fascinating characters to readers. This book is an invitation into the mind and life of a young person struggling with addiction. It is heart-wrenching to see the potential in a person slowly chipped away at.
The main theme of the book is drug addiction. Nikki Haase has captured the struggles and raw emotions that most addicts grapple with, and I appreciated the unfiltered view we’re given. Alana’s journey is a sad one, although not a completely lonely one as she has her friends like Skylar and Xavier and her girlfriend Casey. The prose captures the voice of new adult angst and gives the characters an authenticity that makes them endearing and their stories all the more tragic. I think that by the second or third chapter I was interested in Alana’s character, by the mid point I wanted to know more, and by the end I was desperate to know more. Will she survive her addiction? Will her friends stick with her throughout the process? Will Casey love her beside all her inner demons?
The author shows the importance of friendships and speaking out when going through hard times in life. The story seemed too real to be cliché and the author has done a good job of incorporating supporting themes like mental illness, love and friendship. Nikki Haase has a unique way of bringing out serious issues through humor. The other unique thing about Broken Melody is that the author shows the other side of addiction, one that most people do not know about. For instance at the end of the book, readers are introduced to the other side of Rabbit. Throughout the book, Rabbit is known to be a hardcore drug dealer but he does something at the end that surprised me. I would recommend the book to fiction lovers, people struggling with substance abuse and those living with addicts.
Pages: 302 | ASIN: B08B2Q5YDP
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Schizophrenia is a mental illness that affects thoughts, emotions and even behavior. It’s severity is achieved gradually with symptoms that include hallucinations, altered reality and even disorganized thinking among others. Often when it is believed that the patient will be a danger to his or herself and others, they are institutionalized so the condition can be stabilized.
Max Happiness, written in first person narrative, is a series of thoughts as they run through the character’s mind. This character is schizophrenic and therefore presents many different ideas in quick succession. This presentation of thought provides insight into how people with this condition think and feel if they are misunderstood. As a person looking in from the outside, one would be compelled to quickly dispel any fantasies or notions that do not conform to reality. However, from this text it is clear that the approach used to do this matters quite a bit. The person in this book talks about how his ‘abilities’ albeit imagined have had him committed.
This book by Ali Ismail is enlightening, but not in an informational booklet kind of way. It is enlightening in that it gives the reader first hand experience of a schizophrenic’s train of thought. This is meant as an advocacy exercise for people with this condition. To raise awareness and shine a light on their plight. They really do believe the things they utter so there is need for some sensitivity when interacting with them. From the way the thoughts are structured, it is clear that this character is an otherwise sober individual.
The author has done well to introduce the character first before introducing the condition they suffer from. I think this gives the reader time to endear themselves to the character before they can start to sympathize. The author has also done a good job of making the prose so confusing and discombobulating that one feels like they are reading an anagram. The spontaneity of speech and thought is quite complicated. This provides a truly accurate picture of the patient’s thought process.
This book is a good effort towards advocacy for schizophrenia. However, it does require a bit of an edit. For example, use the right ‘there/their’ and so on. For such a short book, these little mistakes really do stand out.
Otherwise, this is worth taking the twenty minutes or so that you would need to read the contents. It is also worth the one minute it will take to recommend it to someone. It would be nice to expand it a little more to provide a more wholesome picture of the life of the character. This is just one day in the life.
Pages: 6 | ASIN: B07N2RHTW5
WEIRD – or Weird Consequences of a Bedbug Incident, by Regine Dubono is intended to help struggling families see things from a fresh perspective.
Desiree, the focal character in the story, suffers from several disabilities and regularly undergoes treatments for many of them, including mental illness, physical disabilities, and many others. Despite her many conditions, however, she was also highly talented in many ways.
Regine Dubono calls into question the modern psychiatric practice of creating within people a sense of weakness which should therefore be treated with any number of serious and life-altering psychiatric drugs.
The author brings a lot of things to focus through her story, but one of the most powerful is the fact that there is serious repercussions that come from taking these types of medications. Most notably, feelings of being helpless and dependent on the prescribed cocktail of pharmaceuticals. Even more, though, how damaging the wrong drugs can be for a person.
In fact, Desiree suffered the unfortunate fate of being experimented on through pharmaceutical trials on more than one occasion, ending up in states that seemed utterly hopeless, prompting ‘professional opinion’ to recommend Desiree to permanent hospitalization. It was only when she was allowed to stay clear from the drugs and given the personal agency to operate certain aspects of her life that she showed any real signs of improvement and comfort.
The moral of the story is clear and a much needed one at that. Parents, as well as anyone else acting as caretaker for a disabled person, should keep a close eye on the treatment programs and medications that are often administered. Are they doing more harm than good? Are they helping at all? Whatever the case may be, the author’s mission in writing this diary of events outlining Desiree’s life and experiences is to provide anecdotal evidence. The evidence suggests, among other things, that entrusting medical professionals to decisions related to the best interests of the patient is not always the best approach.
In terms of accessibility and style, the majority of Weird – or Weird Consequences of a Bedbug Incident is provided in diary form. As such, it reads as more of a collection of personal notes as opposed to being a dramatized novel. The situations are genuine. The times and places are all accurate. And the notes offered for all the various situations the author faced are about as eye opening as anything else in this category. This is certainly a unique work that deserves attention.
Pages: 220 | ASIN: 1329529731
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An Invisible Child is a story based on the heart wrenching experiences of Lenore Ossen. It tells the tale of her lonely and traumatic childhood, growing up with a mother suffering from mental illness; isolated and trapped away from the real world. Deprived of social interaction, friendships and even family relationships she tells the story of how she endured life living within the restrictive and peculiar rules set by her mother, living in a constant state of fear. She describes how at times she hated her mother, yet was constantly trying to please and make her mother happy.
The book is a chronological recount of her life, as she remembers it, with the help of notes her uncle wrote. Her experiences range from sad, to strange and almost unbelievable. Some of the more disturbing experiences include her relationship with her father and her lack of life experiences.
Her lack of relationship with her father had an enormous impact on Lenore. She craved physical and emotional contact with him, but rarely received it. When he did show her affection, her mother was quick to put an end to it with cruel comments. Her uncle wrote in his notes that “George was a plain, simple fellow who wanted what all men want: a wife, a home, the love and affection of his wife and child. He had none of this.” Lenore’s chance at a relationship was further compromised when he moved out of the family home. All hopes ended when he died and disappeared from her life altogether -although disturbingly her mother did not tell her for over a year that he had died.
As she became a teenager she gained more self-awareness. Lenore became conscious of all the ‘normal’ life experiences she was missing out on. At 14 she had never been on the subway, never played with other children, never purchased anything in a store, never spoken on the telephone or handled money. She writes of her distress as she contemplated all the experiences she should have been having.
Although this is a shocking and heart-breaking story, it is also a story of hope. As she grows older, she slowly gains confidence. She pushes herself far beyond her comfort zone, and literally steps out of the apartment. Lenore attempts everyday tasks and teaches herself age appropriate skills for living in society. At times she makes mistakes, however she learns from these as any intelligent person does. She gains the courage and confidence to overcome her life of abuse, showing others that no matter what road you have traveled there is hope for your future.
Pages: 628 | ASIN: B01LXCKCE6
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Five Fathoms Beneath follows Ambrose as he must deal with the emotional and untimely death of his father. What was the inspiration for the setup to this intriguing novel?
Without giving away too much personal information, I have experience with both cancer and bipolar disorder. That said, an author who chooses to write about mental illness is taking on a great responsibility–how we depict illnesses in fiction impact how people view those illnesses in reality. That led me to do research, and early in that process, I came across an article about the high incidence rate of suicide in the medical profession. There’s relatively little written on the topic, which isn’t surprising when you consider a mental illness diagnosis can adversely impact a doctor’s career. As someone outside the profession, however, I could write freely about the topic, without anyone assuming I was writing about myself or a colleague. And so I came up with the idea of writing a story about a family of medical doctors who deal across the generations with suicide and mental illness, especially depression.
This book deals with mental illness is a passionate and understanding way. Why was this an important topic for you to explore?
At the beginning of, “The Fault in Our Stars,” in his Author’s Note, John Green writes that it’s a fundamental assumption of our species that made-up stories matter. I think Green is absolutely correct because fiction informs how we view the world, and consequently, as writers, we not only have the power to entertain, but we also have the power to explore deeper themes and potentially change the world in a positive way.
We’re almost two decades into the supposedly “progressive” and “woke” twenty-first century, and mental illness is still being used as a pejorative or as a way to fear monger. And that’s even by people who frankly should know better. The stigma attached to mental illness dissuades people from seeking help. Not seeking help costs lives. And that’s something which impacts us all — whether it’s on the personal level when someone in our family is suffering, or on the societal level when we lose our best and brightest. We all should care about mental health because mental health is something which impacts us all.
My hope is Five Fathoms Beneath causes people to pause, rethink what mental illness looks like, and gets them talking about mental illness and suicide prevention.
Ambrose is a unique character that I liked watching change over time. What were some ideas you wanted to capture while creating his character?
I didn’t intend for Ambrose to speak for everyone with depression because depression exists on a spectrum and besides, everyone’s experience is unique and different. That said, with Ambrose’s character, the reader gets some insight into how a depressed person thinks. For example, when he snaps at his patients, it’s not because he’s an inherently bad person, it’s because he’s overwhelmed, exhausted, and struggling with his mental health. Ambrose also accurately depicts why it is difficult for members of certain professions to get help, and the serious impact and far-reaching effects an illness like depression can have on a person’s marriage, family, and life.
Beyond that, much of the novel deals with Ambrose trying to figure out where he fits in the universe and in the grand scheme of life. Ambrose wants to do good and be a hero, and he struggles with who he is and who he wants to be. In the end, he finds his way of being a hero in a way which plays to his own strengths and in a way which is his uniquely his own.
What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?
I’m currently in the process of brainstorming a sort of prequel to Five Fathoms Beneath, based around Ambrose’s father.
If Ambrose Serafeim’s life is not quite perfect, then it’s very good–he lives in picturesque Western Australia, he has a lovely fiancée, and he is well on his way to fulfilling his childhood dream of becoming a physician. Brose owes no small part of his station in life to his famous father, Alec, a gentle and idealistic pediatric heart surgeon who lives by a simple moral code–do good and be good. Brose believes in his father and that code the way he believes in absolutes like oxygen or gravity. But when Alec shatters Brose’s perfect world by acting in a way Brose can neither forgive nor understand, Brose is left foundering amidst an existential crisis and clinical depression, unsure not only who he is, but who his father was.
That is until a catastrophic injury in a running race changes everything.
The road from that catastrophic injury leads Brose to the same heart-stopping precipice on which Alec once stood. Facing the possible end of his marriage and having seemingly lost his career, will Brose repeat his father’s terrible mistake, or will Brose blaze a new path forward, one where he finally realizes his potential to help others?
A twist on Loren Eiseley’s famous essay, “The Star Thrower,” Five Fathoms Beneath blends a realistic medical backdrop with a dash of magical realism to tell the heartbreaking yet ultimately life-affirming tale of a man’s quest to find his life’s meaning.
Posted in Interviews
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From the time he was eight, Ambrose Serafeim planned to follow his father’s career path- that of a celebrated surgeon known for his innovations, abilities, and compassion. Years later, Brose is a doctor but resembles little else about his dad. His father’s cancer, then suicide, the latter spurred on by a secret bipolar disorder, left Brose shattered and bitter. He was also left questioning everything he thought he knew about the man he revered so deeply. After reaching rock bottom in his own mental state, Brose is faced with a different kind of intervention that may finally answer his questions and help him face his demons.
Five Fathoms Beneath, J.R. Alcyone tells a heartbreaking story about the Serafeim family, their history of mental illness, and just how devastating that illness can be when left to its own devices. From the start, Alcyone describes the symptoms, stigma, and progression of bipolar disorder and depression with startling realism and even though the bulk of the story is set in the decades between the 1950’s and 1980’s, many of the issues are still relevant today. Because of this, it’s a book that can be hard to read. However, the subject is always treated with a sensitivity that never demeans or trivializes the issue at hand. The book moves smoothly as it depicts the passing of the years, even as the characters’ lives grow more tumultuous. Brose’s father, Alec, kept his diagnosis a secret because of the societal stigma attached to it, while Brose hides his largely out of denial. Although their reasons differ, both suffer greatly. As is the case in life, Alec’s suicide affected everyone in his life in some way and created ripples that only escalated over the years. After all those years, Brose eventually becomes a typical tragic figure, projecting all the outward appearances of success- high profile career, money, big house, etc.- while everything in his life is actually falling apart. True to life yet again, those around him suffer just as much or more. Even though the ending is formulaic, providing a sense of redemption even, the journey there is anything but as Brose’s path to healing begins in an undefinable place. All in all, it’s an intensely well written book that was hard to put down at any point.
By the author’s own admission, this is a book about mental illness. Although that theme is the brain that allows it to exist and function, family is at the heart of the story. As long as the reader knows him, Brose’s decisions, and his battle with his own depression, are framed within the context of his relationships. He is constantly checking himself against his father’s perceived shortcomings while trying to keep the appearance of normalcy for the sake of his family. Those relationships also provide an anchor.
This book was engaging, well paced, had extremely well written characters, and never patronized or hid from its difficult subject matter.
Pages: 389 | ASIN: B07JPGB8RY
Posted in Book Reviews
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