By: Michelle McConnell
Published by: Atmosphere Press
Publication Date: December 2021
Reviewed By: Amy Lignor
Review Date: November 9, 2021
I understand that this title may not be one that jumps off the page at you and makes you excited to read it. I was in that mindset as well...at first. When I have read books in the past dealing with emotional, mental or medical issues, I have been mostly inundated with graphs, statistics, references, medical terminology, etcetera. But this book changed my entire perspective the minute I read page one.
Readers first realize that this story is told from Maddy Tanner’s point of view as she writes in her diary. She enters events that have happened on various days of her life, talking to her diary as if the pages are you, the reader. Beginning in 1977, when Maddy is eight years old, she talks about the diary being given to her as a birthday present, then goes on to introduce her early life. Maddy was uprooted, to say the least, during her younger years. Her mom joined the Air Force at one time, and they lived in a camping trailer on the Air Force base. She speaks of her first friends, Katy and Karen, that she’d met on that base and how she’d spent more time in their trailer because their parents were so nice, which is a trait that her own father was sorely missing. Her mother wasn’t a bad one, but she did ignore a great deal that went on inside their abusive household instead of dealing with it and getting rid of the man who drank constantly and loved to yell at both Maddy and her mother.
As time goes on, the family moves around a lot, once living in Clarksville, California. It was in Clarksville where Maddy had a number of friends, but Diane was her closest. Unfortunately, all of her friends are afraid of Maddy’s drunk of a father, so they end up staying one night for a visit and never returning, making Maddy feel even more alone than before. She does, however, spend a lot of time with her father’s friends because he usually takes care of her while Mom works, meaning Maddy spends her time at the Royal Oaks Tavern while her father drinks with men like “mean” Fred or Walt, the latter being a scary man who likes to yell as much as her father. But Maddy has no choice; she’s stuck in her situation.
As time progresses, Maddy also starts having blackouts in school. Bullies upset Maddy, and she gets extremely mad and starts to punch and kick at the mean girls, not remembering any part of the fight when she wakes up. This pattern continues, and Maddy finds herself in trouble with her parents and teachers even though she’s emotionally depressed and doesn’t understand the things that are happening to her.
Maddy must go through many battles. She even talks about how she always felt like a fighter who kept getting up only to be slapped down over and over again. From a bicycle accident when she was younger, to braces that broke inside her mouth, to losing her pets and watching her mother sink into the alcoholic realm, Maddy never seems to be able to have one great day. As adulthood looms, Maddy also uncovers secrets from her past that include discovering her name is not actually her “birth” name, and a mystery about her own father that changes who she may or may not be.
Empathy is granted to this girl as you watch the many trials and tribulations that no child or teen should ever have to cope with. And when Maddy finally does reach those adult years, watching her handle a mental illness that she doesn’t have the knowledge to understand, makes the tears well up, knowing that this type of emotional anguish is true for many.
The author does a stellar job sharing Maddy's life with others. She even has diary entries that focus on historical moments none of us will ever forget – from the World Trade Center destruction to President Reagan being shot in 1981. Her writing is so well-done that we cheer for Maddy at her first piano recital at church, and we want to hug her when her first adult love, James, ends up the way most all of our first loves did...in the toilet.
Mental illness causes isolation and that feeling of being absolutely alone in a room full of people, and it’s heartbreaking. But if more books like this were available, at least people experiencing that type of pain would know that the last thing they are is alone.
Quill says: Well done! This story is a personal, emotional, amazingly beautiful look at how a person can overcome the darkness and live a stable, happy life.
For more information on Memoirs of a Manic-Depressant, please visit the author's website at: memoirsofamanicdepressant.com/