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Mad House: Growing Up in the Shadow of Mentally Ill Siblings    by Clea Simon order for
Mad House
by Clea Simon
Order:  USA  Can
Penguin, 1998 (1997)
* *   Reviewed by Mary Ann Smyth

Clea Simon was shattered when her older brother Daniel began hearing voices, making it impossible for him to function. A schizophrenic, he later committed suicide. Clea's sister Katherine also succumbed to the disorder, moving from one institution to another through the years.

Accepting that home life was not normal, Clea - as many before and after her - began to develop strategies to cope. These coping mechanisms followed her into adulthood and colored her relationships with others. Trust was lacking in any of her romantic relationships as well as in the work place and with friends. The fear of becoming like their afflicted siblings proves a real problem for adults whose siblings were mentally ill. I picked up Simon's book because I have a granddaughter who has been diagnosed as bipolar. I am as concerned about her brother and sister as I am for her.

Mad House is a step in the right direction for anyone with the same concerns. Reading of someone who has been there gives me the impetus I need to be sure they get the help they need while their older sister is being treated. Mental illness is not a phrase whispered behind one's hand any more. We need to accept what has gone wrong, work to correct whatever we can, and give the support and love that are desperately needed.

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