The Bi-Polar Express

The Bi-Polar Express

Ride the Life and Death Roller-coaster of Mania and Depression with Mother and Daughter

Non-Fiction - Autobiography
Kindle Edition
Reviewed on 05/02/2017
Buy on Amazon

    Book Review

Reviewed by Ankita Shukla for Readers' Favorite

As the name suggests, The Bi-Polar Express by Ela and Natasha Simon is a book that throws light on how the life of a family is affected by depression and other mental instabilities. Ela, in the first half of the book, expresses the point of view of the mother of a daughter who is suffering from bipolar disorder. The life of a mental patient is difficult as it is; however, the caretaker of the patient, especially if he/she is a family member, goes through an overwhelming journey themselves. They often end up requiring some help to keep them sane. This is what happens when Natasha, the daughter of the author, is diagnosed with ADHD. Even before she was diagnosed, Ela and her husband, Peter, knew that there was something different about her. Natasha was always restless, sometimes utterly active and multitasking; on the contrary, sometimes hopelessly depressed. Although making friends was difficult for her, keeping them was a bigger task. Picking up the signal that she was not wanted was always hard for her. So, she would try her best to keep these "friends" in her life, not realising that she was being played by these people. When she realized the reality, she would be heartbroken. In these moments, only her family and she would be left to pick up the pieces. Ela's struggle to keep up with Natasha's manic episodes, and her desire to keep her daughter happy are well depicted in the first part of the book.

The second part of the book, which is written by Natasha, gives readers an insight into Natasha's side of the story. I have often wondered about how the entire picture changes based on the perception of the audience. This proved to be true from the second half of the book. For instance, according to Ela, Natasha was coming on too strong and thus many of the guys whom she assumed were "The One" ran away; however, when I read this part in Natasha's own words, I realized that she knew when a relationship was over. She could understand it clearly from the guy's behavior, but she chose to hold on because of her undying faith in love. While reading Natasha's version of her life, I developed strong feelings for her. I felt protective of her, which doesn't happen very often. Nevertheless, while reading Ela's part, I could not help but respect her every step of the way. Of course, a mother's love is above every other love, but, in Ela's case, she actually proved her limitless love for her daughter even when Natasha pushed buttons that Ela didn't even know existed.

The interactive style of writing of both the authors is extremely entertaining. From the first chapter to the end, I became a part of the world of Ela and Natasha. I connected with both of them on so many levels. Although the subject of the book is quite emotional, the book is far from it. The authors have ensured that the book doesn't become a dark universe, where readers would only see the darkness. They have kept the mood light and introduced many light-hearted events as well. I learned a lot about bipolar disorder and have developed more empathy towards its patients and their families. I would recommend this book to readers who wish to know more about mental problems or who have, in any way, been in contact with its patients. Also, readers who are intrigued by well-written memoirs should give this book a try. I loved everything about the book.

Mamta Madhavan

The Bi-Polar Express by Ela Simon and Natasha Simon takes readers on a roller-coaster ride through the ups and downs, twists and turns, and highs and lows of the author and her daughter. The book reaches out to all those who know someone who is struggling with mental disorder. It is the story of a mother trying to understand her daughter's different behavior right from childhood, and struggling to accept the truth and reality that her daughter is not normal. The story captures the difficulties, angst, and struggles faced by both mother and daughter.

The story is sad and compelling and the author is vocal about the ordeals she experienced while handling her daughter. There is no mincing of words as she goes through her story of pain and struggles. She also captures her daughter’s story from her point of view and gives readers a view of what Natasha, her daughter, was going through. Both the emotions and expressions of the mother and daughter have been woven in nicely. The book throws light on the bipolar mind and the author shares links to websites which give valuable information for sufferers and carers. It is a story that is real and relatable and many families will be able to connect well with the author’s story. Natasha’s dramas, crises, and alienation are palpable throughout the book, and the ups and downs of a bipolar person have also been discussed in the book through Natasha's story.

Patricia Reding

Ela Simon and her daughter, Natasha, team up to bring readers The Bi-Polar Express: Ride the Life and Death Roller-coaster of Mania and Depression with Mother and Daughter, a journey into the life and times of a family that has struggled through years of a child’s mental illness. Divided into two parts, Ela begins the story with the birth of her daughter. Later, Natasha provides some insight, as she elaborates on some of the same experiences that her mother previously touched upon.

From the outset, Natasha was a bit . . . different. Natasha didn’t want to be wrapped up snugly, she was only interested in “solid” foods by the tender young age of four months, and she crawled, crab fashion, at five months, opening child-proof locks and generally causing mayhem along her way. Soon came years of difficulties in one school followed by another, with adults frustrated by Natasha’s antics, and the unkindness of children incapable of understanding her “oddities.” Though the family sought answers, doctors were unable to diagnose what made Natasha tick, leaving her parents distraught and fatigued. Life with Natasha was—and is—a roller-coaster ride, as she (among other things) rushes from one area of interest to another, spends money she doesn’t have, and experiments with sex and drugs. The drama for those living with or around Natasha, is constant.

My heart goes out to the Simon family. It is impossible to imagine the pain they’ve experienced. The cost to each of them, in time, money, patience, and their general health (physical and emotional) has been extraordinary. As Ela mentions, our governments (she speaks for Australia, I for the U.S.) have not risen to the challenge of dealing with those suffering with mental illness. This is unfortunate, as it is not only the families that pay the price. So too do their surrounding communities, as costs rise in dealing with the consequences. Because the issue of mental illness has been treated as somewhat “hush-hush” over the years, few can appreciate the difficulties of those living with it. Ela Simon and her daughter, Natasha Simon, help to bring some of those things to our individual awareness. In time, hopefully, the people that we put into office will also speak to these issues. The Bi-Polar Express is one family’s journey, but is one in which we should all have an interest as, like it or not, it touches all of our lives in one way or another.

Gisela Dixon

The Bi-Polar Express by Ela Simon and Natasha Simon is an autobiography written by the mother-daughter duo of Ela and Natasha Simon. The story is told from the point of view of the mother in the first half and of the daughter in the second half. Natasha had always been a difficult child since she was young and, as she started going to school, her problems became more apparent and she was diagnosed with ADHD, Bipolar disorder, and mild OCD, among other things. Natasha, like most people with mental illnesses, has a difficult time making friends, keeping a job, having a stable, healthy relationship, or just living a functional life. How she and her parents cope with these mental illnesses and what life is like living with a mental illness or personality disorder is what this book is all about.

The Bi-Polar Express has been written in the first person and in a casual style. I thought Ela’s portion of the book had more insights into what a family member’s challenges are when living with someone who has a mental illness. I also liked the fact that Ela is a truly loving and supportive parent and that is an example in itself to others in a similar situation. I hope a book like this goes a long way toward removing the stigma that still exists in society today towards mental illnesses and disorders. This is a good read that is both enjoyable as well as educational.

Jack Magnus

The Bi-Polar Express is a non-fiction memoir written by Ela Simon and Natasha Simon. Ela and her partner, Peter, were not prepared for the excitement and turmoil that their second daughter would bring into their lives. Their first child, Michelle, had been colicky as an infant, but was an orderly, methodical and organized child who excelled at school and color-coded rubber bands. Natasha’s delivery was exceedingly complicated. After being bedridden for four months, Ela finally gave birth to her second daughter by Caesarean section. Unlike Michelle, Natasha was a quiet infant who slept soundly and loved the water, but, at about six months of age, Natasha became a restless spirit who would take her crib apart, force open cabinets in the kitchen, destroy books and climb shelving. At ten months, her flustered parents gave up on the crib and got her a single bed. They had surrendered to the force that was Natasha and focused on doing all they could to keep her from ingesting poisons or causing too much mayhem. Relatives knew to move their treasured collections before the young family came to visit, and friends found reasons never to extend an invitation a second time. It would be many years until Ela and Peter found out that Natasha had Bi-Polar disorder, a condition that was treatable with medication and therapy. There were no easy cures; it would be an ongoing process, but watching as their daughter finally began to grow into the immensely talented and creative woman she could be was well worth the wait.

Ela Simon and Natasha Simon’s non-fiction memoir, The Bi-Polar Express, is a beautifully written and candid look at Bi-Polar disorder and the havoc the disease, when undiagnosed, can wreak upon the lives of the sufferer and their loved ones. Ela’s story is inspiring. Her writing is a joy to read, and her deep affection for her daughter shines out in every anecdote and story. As I followed her accounts of Natasha’s experiences in school, I could feel Ela’s frustration with a system that just wasn’t sufficiently knowledgeable to handle students with special needs. Her story also helped me get a fuller understanding of this disorder and appreciate the challenges faced each day by those persons who do have Bi-Polar disorder. After reading Ela’s account, I was thrilled to hear Natasha’s story first-hand. She and her mother each have distinctive and different writing styles, and it was intriguing to hear some of the same accounts through their different eyes. I loved reading Natasha’s insights into, and descriptions of, the other patients at the clinic. Her ability to read people and understand what makes them tick is a rare gift indeed. I’m wondering if she’s considering writing fiction and would love to meet the characters she creates. This talented mother-daughter team’s book is most highly recommended.