Resilience: Two Sisters and a Story of Mental Illness

The Close sisters are descended from very prominent and wealthy ancestors. When the Close sisters were very young, their parents joined a cult called the MRA, or Moral Rearmament. The family was suddenly uprooted to a cult school in Switzerland and, ultimately, to the Belgian Congo where their father became a surgeon in the war ravaged republic, and ultimately the personal physician to President Mobutu. Shortly after the girls returned to the US for boarding school, Jessie first started to exhibit symptoms of severe bipolar disorder (she would later learn that this ran in the family, a well-kept secret). Jessie embarked on a series of destructive marriages as the condition worsened. Glenn was always by her side throughout. Jessie’s mental illness was passed on to her son, Calen. It wasn’t until Calen entered McLean’s psychiatric hospital that Jessie herself was diagnosed. Fifteen years and twelve years of sobriety later, Jessie is a stable and productive member of society. Glenn continues to be the major support in Jessie’s life.

In RESILIENCE, the sisters share their story of triumphing over Jessie’s illness. The book is written in Jessie’s voice with running commentary and an epilogue written by Glenn.

I am of two opinions on Resilience. Jessie Close shares an incredibly personal journey of her battle with rapid-cycling bipolar disorder. She also shares the alcoholism, self-destruction, and many marriages that came out of her periods of mania. Her son also suffers from a terrifying mental illness. The struggles in this book are enormous, and I applaud her fight and bravery for sharing such an intensely personal story.

However, this is not a well written memoir. It pains me to be critical of such a narrative, but from a review standpoint, it just doesn’t measure up to others I have read in this genre. The same sentences were often repeated twice, and the wording was often awkward. It is always frustrating to have such a mismatch between strong content and poor writing, especially in a book fighting to bring light to such an important subject.

I think the content wins out though. Glenn and Jessie are fighting to bring awareness and education to people and reduce society’s stigma through their organization Bring Change 2 Mind. Check them out this week for Mental Health Month!

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