I had been having trouble getting through a book since the last month’s read-a-thon until I started this one and despite its heavy themes, it took me no time at all to get through!
Vince stops taking his lithium when he finds out about his partner’s pregnancy. As withdrawal kicks in, he can barely hold his life together. Somewhere between making friends with a blackbird in the back garden and hearing his dead son’s footsteps in the attic, he finds himself lost and alone, journeying through a world of chaos and darkness, completely unaware of the miracle that lies ahead. Goodreads
This was a really touching book that looks at mental illness and the toll it takes on families. The main character, Vince, was diagnosed with bipolar disorder after the death of his first child, and his decision to stop taking lithium threatens his sanity as he awaits the birth of another baby. While the book is narrated from Vince’s perspective, the reader is still able to follow the progression of his mania as he slips further and further away from reality.
I’m not very familiar with bipolar disorder or the symptoms that come from going off your medication but Wilven makes it easy to understand by following Vince’s spiral downwards and his growing obsessions. Vince is the perfect unreliable narrator, convincing the reader that he really is better without the lithium, though at the same time we see him lose control over his life and desperately struggle to maintain his composure through it all.
An especially impressive aspect of the novel were the chapter introductions, each a description of some scientific occurrence that somehow tied in with the book’s events. Some of these went over my head, and I think I’d need to read it again to really grasp how each of them fit with Vince’s decline, but this didn’t take away from the impact created by forming these connections. The foreword also gets special treatment, written by Dr. Eleanor Longden, who sees mental illness as coming about as a result of trauma. It perfectly sets up the story you’re about to engage with and captured my attention from the first page.
I personally didn’t love this book, and I don’t really know how to put in words why, so it’s not 5 stars for me, but I can’t deny the talent of Wilven’s writing. It’s definitely a special book and I know this author has great things in store!
I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review