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Reviewed by Asher Syed for Readers' Favorite
Memoirs of a Manic-Depressant by Michelle McConnell is a novel that revolves around the life of a young girl named Maddy Tanner, as told in a first-person conversational narrative in the form of journal entries. The entries span more than two decades with Maddy detailing the escalation of her struggle, exacerbated by bipolar disorder in the late 70s. This was a time when the mental health condition had the insensitive catch-all phrase name of Manic Depression. The story then takes us all the way into adulthood when Maddy navigates the late 90s early 2000s. Highs and lows manifest through the pages with profound honesty and build up to the heartbreaking unsteadiness of a family foundation steeped in alcohol, abuse, and indifference. This in turn transcends into a teenage and adult life that resembles the same. Parties, drunkenness, theft, loneliness, promiscuity, financial insecurity, and risky behavior all click together in the jigsaw puzzle of a life lived under the persistent, shifting clouds of mania and depression.
An immediate family member of mine once stole and pawned a valuable piece of jewelry for less than 15% of its value to purchase $700 worth of scented candles during a hypomanic episode. They were all the same fragrance, Brown Paper Packages. They joke now that you know you have hit rock bottom when you buy 23 candles that smell like grocery bags, but before they were diagnosed and medicated it was, quite frankly, terrifying. It is experiences like these that drew me to Memoirs of a Manic-Depressant, and while I generally pass on literature written as diary entries, in this novel Michelle McConnell gets it right. It is the first time I have been able to engross myself in a meaningful way and really feel like I can view the struggle beyond clinical definitions and anecdotal stories. This is an immersive experience, and at times it is terrifying. For me, the lowest low is when Maddy rationalizes how suicide would be painful for those close to her, but in almost the same breath states that after watching a true-crime documentary, she sees herself bearing all of the hallmarks of a serial killer. Silver linings do emerge and hope hitches its wagon to a star that may not be shooting but is at least forward moving. This is an extraordinary tale. Very highly recommended.