Dear Ms. Schuch,
You had me with your book’s gorgeous cover of a sandy beach and aquamarine waves, and you further had me with your title “More Than Bipolar”, a phrase that is dear to my heart. You also had me with the fact that Dr. Frederick K. Goodwin, M.D., the eminent psychiatrist and co-author of “Manic Depressive Illness”, wrote your foreward. Dr. Goodwin co-authored “Manic Depressive Illness” with one of my heroes Dr. Kay Redfield Jamison, author of “An Unquiet Mind”. Before I even read a sample or a review, I had high hopes for your book. I don’t regret purchasing it, but there were some shortcomings as well. Thank you for sharing your story, and I wish you the very best.
Before I begin with this capsule review, I encourage you to sample Schuch’s book. It’s truly wonderful to be able to download free samples to get a sense of the author’s writing style and to find out if you are intrigued by the content. I find it helpful to read the table of contents to learn what topics are covered in the work. However, sometimes samples are misleading. I’ve found numerous books which contain solid opening chapters and so I press the little “buy” button on my Kindle. Voila! Ten seconds later the book is part of my Kindle library family. Then, alas – I find that these books diminish in quality in later chapters. Reading a book’s reviews obviously can help in determining whether or not to take the plunge to buy!
In “More Than Bipolar” I appreciated Schuch’s candor about her life, particularly about her extremely painful experiences with date rape and abortion. It takes a great deal of bravery to share one’s life with the world, and I give her a ton of credit for her courage. I particularly liked her chapter about lithium. I take lithium, and I always want to learn about how this old-school drug has affected other authors’ lives. I found it quite interesting that a low, technically non-therapeutic dose helped Schuch for many years. Additionally, I appreciated that Schuch included a brief, well-written history of lithium, which could be a book unto itself.
Whenever I read a new memoir about bipolar, I am comparing it to other memoirs I’ve read in the past. This isn’t necessarily a good thing. The bar for this type of memoir has been set very high by writers such as Dr. Kay Redfield Jamison, Dr. Martha Manning, Terri Cheney, Marya Hornbacher, Carrie Fisher, Melody Moezzi, Mark Vonnegut and others. (There are so many outstanding bipolar memoirs nowadays!) We can’t all be Dr. Kay Redfield Jamison; however.
I was surprised by Dr. Frederick K. Goodwin’s foreword; to be honest, I was disappointed. He wrote “In too many of the life stories of patients with bipolar illness, the chaotic drama of their lives – disrupted families, violence, sexual abuse-grab the reader’s attention; the bipolar illness embedded in all this can be difficult to appreciate.”
I totally disagree. Most people have suffered from these tragic realities, and if one’s writing is high quality, none of the aforementioned topics are going to grab my attention away from the subject of bipolar disorder. Give me a little more credit, please, Dr. Goodwin! He adds “There are no substance abuse issues, chaotic family members, or abusive hospital staff to distract the reader…” Well, I can handle almost anything an author throws at me as long as the writing is superb. Between you and me, I think Dr. Goodwin is a little burned out on all matters bipolar!
In any case, I encourage you to read “More Than Bipolar” as Schuch effectively explains how she reached recovery throughout the course of the fifteen chapters and afterword. She gives solid practical advice regarding how to select a psychiatrist, tips for productive living, and an examination of stigma and labels.
Here is a brief biography of Lizabeth D. Schuch: