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Reviewed by Asher Syed for Readers' Favorite
America's drug crisis surfaces in the most traumatic way for mother and activist Jessie Dunleavy, who takes us into the harrowing world of addiction as she grapples with her son Paul's dependence in Cover My Dreams in Ink: A Son's Unbearable Solitude, a Mother's Unending Quest. As Paul grows up and is raised by a single mother who is determined to see him given the best chance and attention a differently-abled child needs, Dunleavy weaves through an education system that is unequipped to nurture and challenge a creative but slower learning boy with special needs. Paul's artistry and the depths of his creative abilities are highlighted in the work Dunleavy shares, which were written by Paul himself. In a profoundly honest account, Dunleavy brings to light the unbelievable failings of multiple systems that ran in circles and allowed her son to fall through the cracks, seeking reprieve through self-medication that leads to the death of a man who had every right to live.
Oh my goodness, this is a lot to unpack. I am heartbroken and angry as I set this book aside and attempt to process what Jessie Dunleavy, and of course Paul, have been through. Cover My Dreams in Ink is often soul-destroying and a writer without the same skill Dunleavy applies to the narrative might not have had their voice as clearly heard, despite the fact that Paul and Jessie's story is just the tip of the iceberg in a tundra that freezes out families who don't fit neatly into warm little boxes. Years into their battle, a judge finally determines Paul suffers from bipolar disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, history of attention deficit disorder, and hand tremors, but it comes too late. Paul is prone to stretches in and out of sobriety but, for all her fighting on his behalf, Dunleavy is unable to save him. This book is a fitting tribute to a mother's love and sacrifice, to a son with an abundance of creativity, and to all those who find themselves trapped in a system with no way out.