Manic Mama: Dysfunction Sucks
by A. J. Irwin

"She floated on a ten-foot cloud, waving and smiling to all that looked her way."

Detailing the experience of a young woman suffering from manic depression, this book follows the progress of a young girl whose father has left the family and whose mother has become a bitter and emotionally demanding woman who does not know the meaning of unconditional love. Both physically and emotionally abusive, the young girl's mother saddles her with taking care of the younger children as well as the cooking and cleaning, all while criticizing and withholding acceptance. Ultimately, upon becoming impregnated by a 28-year-old young man during a short trip to Californa, the main character is ultimately rejected by her mother and married off to a complete stranger through both parents’ machinations. The daughter born of this marriage is never quite loved by the father, and when she is struck by a car and left comatose while he is dropping her off at school, the family descends into chaos, with the wife becoming hounded by voices or "companions" that vie for control of her consciousness.

Set in the late sixties and early seventies, the plot of this novel is one of the internal torment of bipolar hallucination and psychosis. It touches on the familial aspect of the illness, if not also genetic, and provides an interesting window onto the strange terrains of a mind unable to cope with reality. The lack of unconditional love and acceptance throughout this character's life is implicated in providing an impetus, if not a direct cause, of her mental and emotional breakdown. The portrayal of young children's coping mechanisms in the face of trauma that can leave them somewhat cruel and uncaring is quite astutely drawn. From the opening page of this powerful story, an emotional intensity is established that is gripping.

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