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Songs of Three Islands: A Story of Mental Illness in an Iconic American Family Hardcover

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Atlas (June 22, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1934633348
  • ISBN-13: 978-1934633342
  • Product Dimensions: 7.4 x 6.6 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #466,543 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

According to Monks, her mother, Lucy Carnegie, spent her childhood not on Florida's tony Cumberland Island, but "where sharks swam up in the spring to give birth and foolish young cousins swam in the warm waters." The Carnegie family's vast wealth "created a Brigadoon-like fantasy, which they could never leave because they couldn't function in the outside world." Monks's mother suffered from mentally illness; her father "brought mistresses to dine;" as an adolescent, Monks locked herself in her room nurturing a fear that she would look in the mirror and see her mother looking back. Her parents divorced and her mother married a man who later killed himself. Eventually, Monks married and had a daughter who struggled with drugs, alcohol, and the same depression that Monks has fought all her life. The family illness has deep roots, we learn; the hospital where Monks sends her daughter for treatment has treated at least four other relatives. This tiny but powerful book is most riveting when dealing with the famous but fractured family and not with Monks's more recent life, which includes consultations with mystics and audiences with Deepak Chopra.
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About the Author

Millicent Monks is a writer and artist. She is married to Robert Monks, the author of several books on corporate governance. They live on an island off the coast of Maine.

Customer Reviews

3.7 out of 5 stars
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This is the story, narrative, journey of Millicent Monks.
Roger L. Johnson
I guess I don't really understand the source of the guilt--the never ending self-questioning about who was responsible and did they do enough.
It is not likely that mental illness was passed down in the family through Millie's Aunt "Negie" or Cassandra's maternal grandmother, Lucy.
Jennifer Harrell, DVA

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

22 of 25 people found the following review helpful By Roger L. Johnson on August 12, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is the story, narrative, journey of Millicent Monks. Call it what you will it is a fascinating story of, as she calls it "a story mental illness in an iconic American family." She is the great granddaughter of the brother of Andrew Carnegie. The book chronicles the lives of her mother herself and her daughter. As a therapist I found the book to be extremely engaging. Millicent chronicles the guilt and shame she experienced in being disengaged from a mother who at the best suffered from major depressive disorder and at the worst schizophrenia. Her mother is not alive to attempt diagnosis.
Millicent recounts that she was born at the end of the dpression which would put her roughly in her 80's at this point. The book is written with an excellent grasp of the history of one's family. Specifics and details abound.
Millicent (I feel I am so familiar with her life that I can refer to her by her first name) moves from her own life to the life of her daughter. Millicent posits a diagnosis of borderline personality disorder for Sandra her daughter. She chronicles the stays in various mental institutions and the ensuing alcohol abuse. This book is a study in the genetic/environmental transmission of mental illness. This disorder passed through three generations from grandmother to grand daughter.
If you appreciate excellent writing you will thoroughly enjoy this book. The detail, the vividness, the ethos is brought out in every word. Millicent's journey through mental affliction herself is a journey of courage hope and strength. The use of words places one in the very spot she is portraying and helps the reader to appreciate that she knows of what she speaks. In my humble opinion a true wordsmith crafted this book.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Valerie Porr on September 12, 2010
Format: Hardcover
The subject of Songs of Three Islands is the devastation that Borderline Personality Disorder creates in families as well as the individual sufferer, not simply a voyeuristic window into the wealth and privilege of the Carneige family. This book clearly shows us that no one is immune from the ravages BPD creates in a family. It took a great deal of courage for Millicent Monks to reveal her family history to the public. What did she have to gain by exposing this information to a star struck public that seems to be more focused on her family secrets than on the pain and suffering due to BPD that she reveals in this book?

I am the Founder of the TARA National Association for BPD, an education and advocacy organization that helps people with BPD, their loved ones and the researchers and clinicians who help them. I am also the author of Overcoming BPD, A Family Guide for Healing and Change. Overcoming Borderline Personality Disorder: A Family Guide for Healing and Change The Monk-Carneige family experiences with BPD are not unique. I have known families to mortgage their homes and deplete their finances in search of help only to be bilked by non-evidence based practitioners who provide iatrogenic treatment, harming not helping. Milly's story is everyone's story. This book exposes the pain caused by seeing a loved one suffer, being helpless to alleviate that suffering and then be blamed for it. This attitude persists today with mental illnesses and, unfortunately, families of people with BPD are at the head of the class.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Beth K. Webb on October 11, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
As one who has persons with mental illness in her family, the book was very insightful. I found myself nodding in agreement with much that the author had to say. However, I also found myself wanting to know more about the author's characteristics of her own illness and how her husband coped with it. It is amazing that she and her husband stayed married through their trying situation with their daughter. It is a quick read and not a bit boring.
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23 of 32 people found the following review helpful By H. Furh on August 30, 2010
Format: Hardcover
There are many puzzling things surrounding this book. Like why after a fluff-piece in the NY Times (paid for?), there are still only four reviews here. Like how Mrs. Monks managed to get this silly stream-of-conscientious drivel published (again, paid for?) And the utterly strange reviews of others. (One from the person who delivered the manuscript!)

One might think that this book might shed some light on one or more of the following: 1) History of the Carnegies or Rockefellers. 2) History of the islands in question. 3) A family's struggle with mental illness.

On counts one and two, you'd be hard pressed to say you've learned anything. On the most important matter of mental illness, you'd be much better served by any of a dozen books not written in the dreary and self-absorbed style of this terribly strange woman.

It is certainly not the author's fault that she has lived her whole life with nary a concern about the financing of day-to-day living. This while saying nothing of the burden of medical bills that almost any one else dealing with a mentally ill family member might have. But she is truly clueless as to how the great unwashed live. Six months' treatment here, trips to Santa Fe to visit a psychologist there, school in England, a holiday safari....don't we all live like that?

Obviously no amount of money can alleviate the painful childhood experiences at the hands of her mentally ill mother and ill-tempered father. And who wouldn't give everything they own for their child to avoid the misery of an emotional disorder? But all descriptions conveyed are wrapped-up in a pitiful & delusional triteness.
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