Tag Archives: Mental Health

Book Buzz: Everything Here is Beautiful

Book Buzz: Everything Here is Beautiful

A beautiful read, is how I would describe  Everything Here is Beautiful, the achingly touching story of two sisters and their complicated love for each other.Book Buzz: Everything Here is BeautifulWritten by Mira T. Lee, Everything Here is Beautiful delivers a powerful punch with its foray into the mind of a woman with mental illness, and the toll her disability takes on the ones who love her most.

Everything Here is Beautiful

Miranda and Lucia are Chinese-American sisters whose relationship is tested when they become young adults. After their single mother dies, Lucia, the younger sister, begins to hear voices and is ultimately diagnosed with mental illness. Miranda, the older, more conventional sister, feels a responsibility to monitor her sister’s activity even though they are separated by many miles.

Miranda knows that Lucia’s life is on a precipice because of her illness, and she despairs when she sees Lucia making what she things are the wrong choices: leaving her much older but stable boyfriend, going off her meds, getting pregnant. Miranda knows she must walk on eggshells around her brilliant but erratic sister. If she crosses the line and is perceived as being too pushy, Lucia will rebel, and ultimately withdraw.

As children, Lucia saw Miranda as her role model and protector. Now, she both loves her and resents her for interfering in her life. But Miranda perseveres, convinced that without her sisterly protection Lucia’s life will spiral out of control.

The characters are so unique and compelling, characters I am still thinking about, from impulsive Lucia whom you just want to hug and steadfast Miranda, the big sister everyone wants to have, to Yonah, the Russian Jewish amputee who owns a health food store and comes in and out of Lucia’s life, and Manny, the young Latino who is swept away by Lucia’s charms and only becomes aware of her illness after their baby daughter is born.

The minor characters, as well, are fascinating: Manny’s mother and extended family in Ecuador, the patients and staff at the mental hospital where Lucia is kept for several weeks, even the pediatrician whose name is Vera Wang.

With the narrative switching from one character to the next, we see the struggles through their individual lenses which adds depth to the story and gives us a clearer picture of the impact of Lucia’s illness. Lucia’s description of what she calls the serpents, or voices, taking over her life is particularly heartbreaking. Her narrative succeeds in explaining why she acted strangely, why her actions were perceived as crazy but made perfect sense to her.

As with other books I’ve loved, I had to slow down at the end because I didn’t want it to end. That’s how much I adored it. And the ending … well, it was perfection. Total perfection.

 

One of my lucky readers will receive a copy of Everything Here is Beautiful. Please click on the Books is Wonderful Facebook page and leave a comment there. A winner will be randomly selected. US addresses only, please.

 

I received a copy of Everything Here is Beautiful from Pamela Dorman Books/Viking for an honest review, which is the only kind of review I write.

 

 

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Book Buzz: The Stranger in My Recliner

Husband: (opening front door and calling out) “Honey, we’re home.”

Wife: (coming down the steps) “Hi … but who is we?”

Husband: “I brought someone home tonight. Hope you don’t mind. An elderly, mentally challenged homeless person. It’s OK if she stays with us, right?”

The Stranger in My Recliner

This is not a joke. Nor is it fiction. This is a paraphrased semblance of what really happened to author Doreen McGettigan, as she reveals in her new memoir, The Stranger in My Recliner.

Doreen’s husband John found Sophie, the homeless woman, huddled outside a McDonald’s one cold night, clutching a couple of shopping bags. After a moment he recognized her. She used to attend the same AA meetings he had twenty years earlier. He was shocked to see how she had deteriorated. Remembering her kindnesses to him, he wanted to repay that kindness now.

Doreen was pretty shocked to be presented with this stranger but agreed to take her in, figuring they would locate Sophie’s family members or, worst case scenario, find her another place to stay.

Sophie once had a family, but she lost contact with every member, and none of them came forward to rescue her. Doreen and John tried unsuccessfully to find someone. Just as her family failed her, so did government assistance. Doreen and John soon found out what a nightmare the mental health system was: the red tape, the unanswered phone calls, the dead ends.

There was nowhere for Sophie to go. The McGettigans would not let her go back to the streets. She ended up living with them for over two years.

A Stranger in My Recliner

Think about it. This was a stranger. A stranger who had mental health issues, who was unable to do anything for herself. She was often incontinent had terrible hygiene. She could throw tantrums like a child. She spent all her waking hours in the blue recliner in the living room, watching soap operas. She could be demanding and mean-spirited.

And yet the McGettigans were there for her. The impact on their marriage, their children and grandchildren, their lifestyle was huge. They sacrificed so much to help Sophie.

Would you have done that for a stranger?

I have to be honest. I don’t think I would have.

The kindness and compassion they showed to Sophie is nothing less than extraordinary. And despite the difficulties of caring for her, they both came to love her.

As she did in her previous book, Bristol Boyz Stomp, a story about the random road rage that claimed her brother’s life, Doreen McGettigan pulls no punches. She is unsparing in her frustrations of caring for Sophie and about the plight of homeless people in general. Her research into the mental health care system reveals a history of abuse and neglect, let alone mismanagement. Our system routinely lets homeless people fall through the cracks, and it’s shameful.

Homelessness continues to be a major issue in our country, with an estimated homeless population of between 2.5 million and 3.5 million. Approximately 26% of homeless people have a severe mental illness, and approximately 34% are chronic substance abuse users.

Reading The Stranger in My Recliner was an eye opener for me. First of all, it is gratifying to know that there are really, really good people in this crazy world of ours. Secondly, the facts about our mental health system are shocking. There are millions of other Sophies on the streets who have no family, no advocates, nowhere to go.

The Stranger in My Recliner is gritty and real. Sophie’s story is one I won’t soon forget.

 

I received a copy of The Stranger in My Recliner for an honest review,
which is the only type of review i write.

If you love my work, please share it!
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