In The Shadow Of Madness, A Memoir Print
Written by Thelma I. Hayes   

Author: Dolores Brandon
Publisher: by SKY BLUE PRESS, Troy, MI

(Reviewer: Thelma I. Hayes was founding President of National Alliance for the Mentally Ill ( NAMI), North Coastal San Diego County, California. She now serves as advocacy chair.)?

In the Shadow of Madness, A Memoir by Dolores Brandon, has a literary quality rare in books and articles written about mental illness' depression, bipolar or manic depressive illness, schizophrenia, panic disorder, among them.

Those of us involved with an afflicted friend or relative eagerly wade through academic articles about the latest research, always looking for a breakthrough to relieve a patient's and a family's trials. Or we read, with the hope of gaining help, a case study of a person whose illness resembles whichever neurological brain disease our kin has.

Seldom are we treated to the type of writing Dolores Brandon produced as she relates her Canadian family's coping and surviving her father's manic depressive illness.

Most of the telling is in the author's poetic form. Some is in poetry we know, some is in French, most in English. Other times she uses the lyrics of a song. The prose is oral history her mother contributes.

The oldest of three daughters, the author begins the narrative before she leaves her mother's womb.

. . . Once inside,
I remember the lights flashing bright,
the walls of your belly paper thin,
your voice a moist and delicate reed crying:

Don't do it. I beg you,
let me go

Her father's rage, building as highs develop, often foretells the violence that will occur causing his hospitalizations. The early progression of these highs reveals a talented, creative man. However, his successes as an inventor, salesman, and performer are short-lived. Little is said of his lows.

The resulting experiences and frequent moves are realistically told, without self-pity, and illustrated with family album pictures, including the grandparents as well as the aunts and uncles. One of them always was there for the mother when she needed help the most. Only once does Dolores mention her sister's and her stay in a foster home.

Dolores makes us feel the spirit that keeps this family together. And it is generally the family that is the most important element, that best supports any victim of a mental illness.

In the end, it was cancer that caused her father's death. Ironically, the long and painful confinement assured compliance to psychotropic medications that were just becoming available in the 60's and that he had begun to accept. The girls' lifelong endurance of the affects caused by his mental illness was replaced by the anguish they experienced through the pain he suffered from his physical disease.

In her last chapter she reveals problems of the family after her father's death. It may be that they had always been there but had been overlooked in order to solve those the father's illness created.

With her skills, I would like to have Dolores consider writing another moving story a full account of what happened to her father's survivors.

Thelma Hayes, Carlsbad, CA