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Beth's Review: Madness: A Bipolar Life by Marya Hornbacher

Reviewer Purchase Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcour Released: January 1st 2008 Genre: Mental illness, Memoir Length: 315 pages Format: EBook, Paperback, Hardback, and Audio Add to Goodreads Buy Links



When Marya Hornbacher published her first book, Wasted: A Memoir of Anorexia and Bulimia, she did not yet know the reason for her all-but-shattered young life. At age twenty-four, Hornbacher was diagnosed with Type 1 rapid-cycle bipolar, the most severe form of bipolar disease there is.

In Madness, in her trademark wry and utterly self-revealing voice, Hornbacher tells her new story. Through scenes of astonishing visceral and emotional power, she takes us inside her own desperate attempts to control violently careening mood swings by self-starvation, substance abuse, numbing sex, and self-mutilation. How Hornbacher fights her way up from a madness that all but destroys her, and what it is like to live in a difficult and sometimes beautiful life and marriage—where bipolar always beckons—is at the heart of this brave and heart-stopping memoir.

Madness delivers the revelation that Hornbacher is not alone: there are millions of people in America struggling with a variety of disorders that may mask their true diagnosis of bipolar. Also, Hornbacher's fiercely self-aware portrait of her own bipolar as early as age four will powerfully change the current debate on whether bipolar in children exists.

Ten years after Kay Redfield Jamison's An Unquiet Mind, this storm of a memoir will provoke, educate, and move.

Five Boundless Stars

Marya Hornbacher is the bravest writer I’ve read so far. One can only imagine what it took for her to share these 299 pages of the most personal aspects of her life; and to do so in such a brilliant way.

Her imagery was perfectly written and I was smoothly brought into the story. Though this is such a serious diagnosis; Hornbacher, along with the quirky characters she introduces, manage bring comedy into the story. I’m sure it is in no way meant to be a medical text, but I felt it was quite educational. Readers learn about bipolar from the first person point of view, when most will never talk about their mental illness.

Overall, I give Madness: A Bipolar Life 5 Boundless stars. I absolutely loved it.

An added note: I listened to the audio edition of this book, which was read by Tavia Gilbert, and her reading was exceptional and full of emotions.

I love when books are read with such animation. I will search her name when looking for audio books in the future.

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