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Book Reviews: November 2008

Editors note: Click the book title to order the book from and NAMI will receive a portion of the proceeds.

Stalking Irish Madness: Searching for the Roots of My Family’s SchizophreniaStalking Irish Madness
by Patrick Tracey (Bantam Dell 2008. 273 pages.)

Journalist Patrick Tracey decided to track the origin and surrounding mystery of his family’s multi-generational struggle with schizophrenia after watching two of his four sisters develop the disease in early adulthood, joining at least three other relatives in his family with the diagnosis.  The ensuing book mixes research, travel blog, genealogy, and discovery to uncover the roots and depth of schizophrenia in his family and Ireland—and has received much praise in national reviews in recent months.

Readers first meet Tracey negotiating his way through a dark and damp Irish cave on Halloween, when according to Celtic myth, ancestral ghosts are free to roam the earth at midnight. This opening scene is emblematic of Tracey’s own slippery search for some understanding of the mental illness that has haunted his family for generations.

Schizophrenia for DummiesSchizophrenia for Dummies
by Jerome Levine, M.D. and Irene S. Levine, Ph.D. (Wiley Publishing, Inc. 2009. 362 pages.)

From the for Dummies series, Schizophrenia for Dummies contains a wide range of information to help demystify the illness and provide a go-to reference resource for families.  The book answers basic questions about schizophrenia, and then examines such topics as barriers to treatment, enhancing chances of recovery, and other resources available to persons living with schizophrenia and their loved ones. On the back cover, NAMI medical director Ken Duckworth notes: “The book is easily read and provides an informative roadmap that can help everyone to orient themselves and navigate uncertain terrain, as part of a journey toward recovery.”

Borderline Personality Disorder: thefacts: All the Information You Need, Straight from the ExpertsBorderline Personality Disorder
by Roy Krawitz and Wendy Jackson (Oxford University Press 2008. 253 pages.)

This book is from thefacts series about mental illness and other diseases.  Written from the perspectives of a therapist/psychiatrist and former patient, respectively, Roy Krawitz and Wendy Jackson have created this book for people with BPD using an informal style and everyday language wherever possible.  It is divided into three sections:  facts about BPD; information to assist readers in setting up frameworks and structures for treatment; and outlining specific strategies for everyday living.


Hammond’s Choice: A Marty Fenton Mystery NovelHammond's Choice
by Bob Cohen, Ph.D. (Brandylane Publishers, Inc. 2008. 260 pages.)

It is unusual for NAMI to list a mystery novel, but this is an exceptional one that illustrates the practice of “custody relinquishment” through which parents are forced to turn over children to states in order to get adequate treatment for serious mental illnesses. As part of the plot, Tommy, a 14-year-old boy, is sent to an out-of-state residential treatment where he is accused of killing another teenager. Marty Fenton, a graduate student is psychology and part-time private investigator uncovers the truth. In the process, readers learn about the nation’s mental healthcare system for children and adolescent and its “questionable policies and practices.” The author is vice-chair of the psychiatry department at Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) and director of its Virginia Treatment Center for Children.

A Balanced Life: 9 Strategies for Coping with the Mental Health Problems of a Loved OneA Balanced Life
by Tom Smith (Hazelden 2008. 136 pages.)

Written to bridge the gap in resources for parents of children living with mental illness, this book was written to offer research, resources, and connection through the Karla Smith Foundation, formed by the author and his wife after their daughter died from suicide.  Smith’s key goal is balance: emotional, mental, spiritual, and behavioral.  But loving someone with a mental illness means lots of detours and unexpected situations.  This book offers nine strategies for implementing a plan of support, and teaches family and others what they can expect from loving persons with a mental illness.