From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. This powerful story of a mother trying to cope with her daughter's bipolar disorder reads at times like a heightened procedural. Keri, the owner of an upscale L.A. resale clothing shop, is hopeful as daughter Trina celebrates her 18th birthday and begins a successful-seeming new treatment. But as Trina relapses into mania, both their worlds spiral out of control. An ex-husband who refuses to believe their daughter is really sick, the stigmas of mental illness in the black community, a byzantine medico-insurance system—all make Keri increasingly desperate as Trina deteriorates (requiring, repeatedly, a "72 hour hold" in the hospital against her will). The ins and outs of working the mental health system take up a lot of space, but Moore Campbell is terrific at describing the different emotional gradations produced by each new circle of hell. There's a lesbian subplot, and a radical (and expensive) group that offers treatment off the grid may hold promise. The author of a well-reviewed children's book on how to cope with a parent's mental illness, Moore Campbell (What You Owe Me
) is on familiar ground; she gives Keri's actions and decisions compelling depth and detail, and makes Trina's illness palpable. While this feels at times like a mission-driven book, it draws on all of Moore Campbell's nuance and style.
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From Scientific American
Hell, being black is hard enough.... Please don't add crazy. So writes Bebe Moore Campbell in her compelling new novel that confronts two taboo subjects in the African American community: mental disorder and homosexuality. The book is named for the three-day maximum period that a mentally ill adult can be legally held in a public health facility if she demonstrates a danger to herself or others. The novel tells the story of Keri Whitmore, a successful black businesswoman struggling to care for a teenage daughter with bipolar disorder, which causes radical mood swings between mania and depression. The fictional prose is not meant to offer an inside look at brain disease. Rather it presents a brutally honest and devastating account of a mother's love and the desperate degree to which she will go to rescue her child from mental illness. In doing so, Campbell exposes the woeful inadequacies of our current public health care system in treating such patients and introduces the novel's greatest value: its insight into the challenges faced by people who must care for such loved ones. Nevertheless, this noble effort is undermined when Campbell invokes slavery to convey the horrors of mental illness. Though poignant, the comparison seems forced, relying on overwrought passages about whipping posts and slave auctions. The metaphor clouds the novel's purpose, especially since the author seems to decide, by the end, that the best way to deal with a family member's brain disease is through acceptance rather than emancipation. The same cannot be said of slavery. Campbell also draws parallels between brain disorders and homosexuality to suggest that both issues must be dealt with more openly. Her point that both are unfairly stigmatized is overshadowed by the unsavory implication that being gay is a malady somehow akin to mental illness. The novel offers important lessons to family members about caring for the self and seeking the support of others. And yet Campbell's main character is overly ambitious, much like the book itself. Keri seems more like a wonder-mom with an endless supply of time, energy and patience than a desperate mother on the brink of collapse. She not only cares for her manic daughter but runs her thriving business, strokes the ego of her workaholic exhusband, counsels her boyfriend's gay son and advises a drug-addicted ex-prostitute. Then again, Campbell has taken on ambitious aims, which she accomplishes with some success despite the novel's distractions.