Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Oh, Those Crazy Parents

Not to make light of mental illness at all, but when you pick three books at random off the shelf, and each one features a parent who is mentally ill, you start to question your own thoughts. I have the convenient excuse of pregnancy hormones, at least. These three parents go beyond the occasional mood swing, and the titles can go firmly on anybody's list of books-to-help-kids-cope (or, just really good books for anyone.)

Wild Roses
Cassie lives with her mother and her ticking time bomb of a stepfather. The famous Dino Cavalli is a world-renowned violinist and composer. He is also, at his best, a snide perfectionist, completely self-absorbed and snobbish. At his worst...well, that's the question, isn't it? Just how bad are things going to get? Throw in a hot young music student, two hilarious biker masseuses, and a whole lot of things-aren't-as-simple-as-they-seem, and you have a page-turner!
Amanda will never be the person her mother wants her to be (unlike her perfect younger sister) - and even if she was, her mother would still probably find fault. A classic Jacob-have-I-loved situation, with Mom projecting her past failures and fears on her oldest. The emotional abuse is recognized by other adult figures, who try to step in at times, but nobody ever actually puts a stop to it. I had a harder time reading this than I did the other two, where the parent was actually labeled as having a mental disorder. There is a hopeful ending, although thankfully, not a fairy tale one!
Jars of Glass
In this one, Mom is already out of the home, but definitely not out of anyone's minds or lives. Told in alternating chapters by sisters Chloe and Shana, we learn about their mother's slow descent into schizophrenia, and how the family (including father and newly-adopted-from Russia little brother) is coping (or not) with her institutionalization. Barkley and Hepler do an excellent job of telling a cohesive story while keeping the two voices distinct. Chloe is a bit of an optimist, although not as na├»ve as her sister thinks. She clings to the hope that her family can be like it was before. Shana is more of a realist, choosing to remove herself from her family - and herself - as much as possible. For all her misplaced optimism, Chloe is actually the one who begins finding healthy ways to create a sense of family once again.

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