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A Reading Vocation

"I Must Read, Read, and Read. It is my Vocation." - Thomas Merton

This is where I chronicle my reading life.  I also blog about writing at Lacey's Late-night Editing.


Book 37/100: Letters From a Bipolar Mother by Alyssa Reyans

Letters from a Bipolar Mother (Chronicles of A Fractured Life) - Alyssa Reyans

This book interested me on a lot of levels. I like memoir, I like books that address mental health issues, and I like books written in an epistolary style. This book is all of the above, but it was different than I expected it to be.

Described as a collection of letters to the children Alyssa has lost contact with, the book is mainly a series of explanations about what was happening inside Alyssa's mind during a psychotic break that caused her to lose touch with her children. It's heartbreaking to know that a delusion ultimately made Alyssa choose a life apart from her children over one with her children because she felt it was what God was "calling" her to do. Anyone who has ever found themselves sucked into a dangerous relationship, with or without mental illness, won't find themselves able to turn away as Alyssa details her descent and eventual climb back out.

I hope that Alyssa's children do hear her story someday, and I admire her bravery in sharing these letters publicly. The writing is passable if not great and easy to follow. Although there are a fair amount of minor typos and grammatical issues, they are pretty easy to glide over, and it's one of the better self-published books I've read (meaning, presentation issues were not so off-putting that I had to stop reading). I did feel the book lacked a sense of real connection with the children these letters were supposed to be addressed to, though. Although Alyssa kept talking about how much she loved them, I didn't get a sense of who they were as people -- I wanted her vivid memories of them; I wanted to know what she saw when she looked them up, years later, on Facebook. I wanted to feel the ache of that separation, but the ache of mental illness and Alyssa's need to explain herself really take center stage here. The book is supposed to be first in a series, and I was interested enough in Alyssa's story that I was disappointed to learn that she seems to have become distracted from continuing this project.