Two-for-One Review: “Manic” and “Madness”

October 16, 2008 at 3:42 pm | Posted in Memoir, Nonfiction, Two-for-One Review | 2 Comments

You know I love to read memoirs.  How can you tell?  Because I read two separate ones about bipolar disorder in the same year, that’s how.  It’s an interesting topic to me because my ex-husband is bipolar.  Maybe you’d rather read just one, though.

Both Terri Cheney’s Manic: A Memoir and Marya Hornbacher’s Madness: A Bipolar Life describe bipolar disorder from the sufferer’s perspective.  Both include binge drinking, promiscuous sex, psychiatrists, hospitalizations, medications, electroshock therapy, and trying to make it as a “normal” person.  Both expose what must have been brutally difficult events in the author’s life.

Manic focuses on Cheney’s complaint that bipolar disorder is not well understood or accepted by society.  She shares her frustration that she is held accountable for things like running up her credit cards and breaking the speed limit, when it is her illness doing these things.  Granted, she has a point, but if I were in those shoes I’d pray someone took away my cards and my car keys.  (The exact reason why I don’t keep breakfast cereal in my house – if I did I’d eat a box every two days, and I know I can’t trust myself with it).  There’s a complete lack of understanding that driving 100 mph can kill other people and that spending so much money that you can’t pay your bills leaves your creditors on the hook.  Cheney goes on to put together her book deal and finds that other people are curious, rather than repelled, by her condition.

Madness is Hornbacher’s second memoir.  Her first, Wasted, discussed her long-term battle with anorexia and bulimia.  It turns out those were the least of her problems, as she was already experiencing symptoms of undiagnosed bipolar disorder.  As it turns out, her life completely fell apart shortly after the celebrated Wasted was published.  Hornbacher sustains her earlier promise as an extremely powerful writer.  The fact that she can still write so beautifully in spite of everything she’s been through is astounding.  She presents herself during her manias and depressions as a truly crazy person.  The moments of lucidity she seems to have experienced are heartbreaking, as she keeps waking up:  literally, on the floor; or figuratively, in a strange room, not understanding how she got there or what’s going on.  She shares her grief at what’s happened to her and what she’s put her friends through, and her faith that she will keep fighting her illness.

Either memoir will give you insight into the life of a mentally ill person.  I recommend reading about this experience rather than marrying into it.


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  1. Hi! I’m one of the read-a-thon helpers and I’ve been visiting participants to make sure they don’t forget it’s this Saturday already. I hope you’re ready and that you have lots of fun reading!

    Also, you made me very curious about both of those books.

  2. I’ll definitely have to check both of these out. I’ve just read “Life is Like a Line” which is Cynthia Sabotka’s memoir of her life dealing with bipolar disorder. She does an excellent job of sharing her story and intertwining it with enough analysis and information so that you gain a good understanding of life in a dysfunctional family and living with bipolar disorder.

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