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Mad House: Growing Up in the Shadow of Mentally Ill Siblings Mass Market Paperback – May 1, 1998

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Editorial Reviews Review

Tales of family dysfunction have become so commonplace that a postcard witticism suggests that a conference for children of functional families would be sparsely attended. Certainly Clea Simon, whose two older siblings were gripped by schizophrenia in their teens, wouldn't be there. She lays out a bleak, affecting story of growing up in a family where the spotlight necessarily shone on the insistent dissociations of a brother she remembers as once gentle and brilliant and a sister whose screeching, violent terrors sent young Simon scrambling for safety. Cogent explanations of mental illness and slices of therapy interweave with Simon's stories and those of similarly besieged families and siblings who must dismantle huge emotional barricades in order to live fully as adults. Sometimes this mix is uneasy, such as when a professionally cool distance too swiftly replaces the white heat of painful memories. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From School Library Journal

YA. As the much younger sister of schizophrenic siblings, Simon grew up in terror and confusion. Her brother first rejected her, and then became sexually abusive before she entered her teens, thus setting the stage for her future relationships with men. Her sister became vicious as her illness intensified. The enduring memories of a sadistic grin, a crushed pet hamster, and fear for her own life colored the author's attitudes toward other women as she matured. Her parents' desperation and the removal of both siblings from the home to institutions created a pattern of rejection and abandonment in the young girl's mind for anyone who caused parental disapproval. Interspersed with interviews, descriptions, and conclusions from the siblings of other mentally ill patients, the book depicts the dysfunctional effects of living with madness. This is an important book for young adults living in such situations. The implications of genetic predisposition, pharmaceutical treatments, and prognoses are clearly explained. Many issues are covered with sensitivity and a sense of "you are not alone." A short list of recommended reading is included.?Carol DeAngelo, formerly at Fairfax County Public Library, VA
Copyright 1997 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Mass Market Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books; First Edition edition (May 1, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140274340
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140274349
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.5 x 7.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #371,000 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Hi! Welcome to my Amazon Connect page. I don't know if you found me because you like fun feline mysteries (my Theda Krakow and Pru Marlowe pet noir series) or savor an academic setting (my Dulcie Schwartz series). You'll find animals in all of them - and in my upcoming (2016) mystery, "The Ninth Life," which takes a darker turn than any of my previous books, too (with a black cat, naturally).
You might be wondering about my "Dogs Don't Lie." Yup, it's got a dog in it, and many of the Pru Marlowe books feature other animals. But Pru, an animal psychic, couldn't function without her sidekick, an irascible tabby named Wallis. They both appear in "Cats Can't Shoot," "Parrots Prove Deadly," and the latest Pru "Panthers Play for Keeps," and "Kittens Can Kill." (Look for "When Bunnies Go Bad" in March 2016! All from Poisoned Pen Press) Meanwhile, I hope you are enjoying my Theda Krakow series - "Mew is for Murder," "Cattery Row," "Cries and Whiskers," or "Probable Claws" - and my Dulcie Schwartz series (think cats AND ghosts!) with "Shades of Grey," "Grey Matters," "Grey Zone," "Grey Expectations," "True Grey," "Grey Howl," "Stages of Grey," and "Code Grey" (all from Severn House). Or perhaps we share some family issues, and you're looking at "Mad House" or "Fatherless Women." Or maybe you just love cats and are interested in my "The Feline Mystique." At any rate, good to meet you! I'm a writer and journalist, an avid reader, and am looking forward to making this page lively and fun.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

27 of 27 people found the following review helpful By Carol S. VINE VOICE on May 8, 2000
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Having "acquired" through marriage two family members with bipolar disorder, I have sought to educate myself about mental illness and its effect on the family. I found "Mad House" to be a perceptive and instructive look at the secondary victims of mental illness: siblings of the patient. The author's personal experiences as the sister of two schizophrenics is interwoven with explanations of current scientific research about serious mental illness as well as psychotherapeutic insights about how the experience of growing up with a mentally ill sibling can affect others in the household. The memoir-ish portions of the book bring comfort in the form of knowing one is not the only person to have so suffered (and mental illness is one of the last great bastions of shame, secrecy and guilt left in our culture). The summaries of recent research are great educational tools. And if you are struggling with personal issues arising out of your experience as a sibling of a mentally ill person, then the matter-of-fact explanations of common behavioral and emotional patterns will give you insight -- self-help without the twelve steps or touchy-feely-wallowing-in-my-angst element that can be off-putting. Be advised that the book focuses on the special issues that siblings of the mentally ill face (as opposed to parents, or children, or spouses, for example) and the discussion does center on schizophrenia and related disorders, with only a passing nod to bipolar disorder, depression and other illnesses. But this skillfully written book contains plenty of empathy and perception for anyone interested in the mental health field.
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20 of 20 people found the following review helpful By E. J. Keel on December 1, 1999
Format: Mass Market Paperback Verified Purchase
My brother is schizophrenic and for many years while the family focus has been on his illness, I have felt at varying times sorrow, anger, grief, but above all loneliness. It is gratifying to find an author who gives words to these feelings. Clea Simon in _Mad House_ has done a masterful job of holding the mirror to the families who deal with the tragedy of mental illness. Her book tells the story of the brothers and sisters who sit in the quiet corners of home and watch unpredictable, uncontrollable and terrifying events unfold. I highly recommend this book to any brother, sister, or parent of a person who has been diagnosed as mentally ill. We can learn and grow from her experiences and by helping ourselves, we can help those in our care.
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20 of 21 people found the following review helpful By BeatleBangs1964 VINE VOICE on August 27, 2000
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Clea is the luckiest of her siblings. Her older brother Daniel, a brilliant boy, showed signs of psychosis in early adulthood. He somehow managed to attend Harvard and upon leaving the renowned university, succumbs to his illness. He marries a woman from his halfway house and they have a daughter. The brother commits suicide and the baby remains unheard from. Clea was in college at the time of her brother's death and her parents curiously give her a false account of how her brother killed himself. That is never explained.

Clea's sister Katherine/Althea appears to be the most unstable. She, too, started showing signs of the illness in late adolescence and was barely able to fight her psychosis and finish high school. She lived from hospital to halfway house, never really finding her niche. Her erratic behavior precluded her from staying at halfway houses and in one memorable account in the book, a landlady requested that her parents come and collect her after she defecated on a mattress. She remained a "living" casualty of mental illness; at the close of the book, Clea did not even know where she was.

Clea is a strong voice, a strong advocate for the families of the mentally ill. Her poignant book is yet another reminder that mental illness is often a family illness because of the tragic impact it has on non-mentally ill members.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By E. M. Carey on July 25, 2000
Format: Mass Market Paperback
I did not grow up with schizophrenic siblings, although there is a history of the disease in my adopted family. What I did experience was two sisters with very disturbing behavior, and I found Mad House to be a great help in describing a lot what went on in my particular house and family.
Clea Simon does a terrific job portraying the stress and chaos mentally ill siblings can cause and the far-reaching effects this can have on well family members. In her case, she had a brother and sister with schizophrenia, and her sympathetic yet realistic depiction of life under such circumstances is fascinating, informative and clearly thoroughly researched. Her knowledge of the topic enables her to speak intelligently and cogently about very disturbing emotions, such as the overwhelming fear that she, too, would contract this dreaded disease.
Part of what is best about this book is that Simon speaks to a wide range of people who have also grown up or dealt with schizophrenic siblings, and the candid, personal and touching perspectives they provide complements Simon's own experience. It is truly fascinating how many of the 'healthy' siblings have found their way into the mental health profession, enabling them to 'help' their sick brothers and sisters in a variety of ways, however indirectly.
I highly recommend this book for anyone interested in family dynamics, mental illness or for anyone who grew up with someone who exhibited anti-social, destructive behavior. The wide array of response to such situations are well-documented and described, and it is quite a relief to find one's own experiences echoed in those of others. But there's a great deal here worthwhile for those simply interested in the topic, and in the heart-wrenching effects mental illness can have on those who care about and for those stricken with the disease.
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