Scattershot: My Bipolar Family

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An memoir of mental illness in the tradition of the bestselling An Unquiet Mind

Scattershot is David Lovelace's poignant, humorous, and vivid account of bipolar disorder's effects on his family, and his gripping exploits as he spent his life running from? and finally learning to embrace-the madness imprinted on his genes. Four out of five people in David Lovelace's immediate family have experienced bipolar disorder? including David himself. In 1986, his father, his brother, and David himself were all committed in quick succession. Only his sister has escaped the disease. A coming-of-age story punctuated by truly harrowing experiences, this devastating and empathetic portrait of the Lovelace family strips away the shame associated with bipolar disorder-a disease that affects approximately 5.7 million adult Americans-and celebrates the profound creative gifts that come with it.

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Editorial Reviews

Jane Ciabattari
In his memoir, Lovelace interweaves descriptions of the numbing despair and thrumming hypomania of the illness with images from his upbringing by religious parents…This family story is helped immensely by the author's empathy for all involved (including his wife, children and friends) and by his poetic descriptions of emotional states most of us cannot imagine.
—The Washington Post
Publishers Weekly
Starred Review.

As a twenty-something in the 1980s, Lovelace discovered that he had bipolar disorder (formerly known as manic-depression), a shattering mental illness shared by both his parents and, they would find later, his younger brother. Growing up, his parents went largely undiagnosed-his mother's initial breakdown was in 1949, the days when "psychiatrists diagnosed almost all delusional illness as schizophrenia," and the only treatment was electroshock. Members of his family spent years in deep, undiagnosed suffering, largely from depression ("Denial wasn't difficult, not yet. No one in my family had experienced mania"), and Lovelace spent years running from his illness through Mexico, South America and later to New York, accompanied by drugs and alcohol: "I've denied my own illness and I've loved it almost to death." Lovelace's poetic prose is both matter-of-fact and haunted, capturing the unpredictable rhythms of mental illness: "Alone in the bathroom I made a smile in the mirror and it strangled my eyes." Readers will get a real sense of the interior world of a single patient, and a family, on the verge of a mental breakdown.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Library Journal

Poet and bookseller Lovelace's humorous and harrowing first memoir follows his gentle, loving mother's, his eccentric preacher father's, his younger brother's, and his own descent into bipolar disorder. It's a coming-of-age story of an entire family; how parents and siblings are affected by both their own and each other's bipolarity. Marked by otherness simply by being the evangelical preacher's son, Lovelace also had to cope with his role as the family's caretaker, which he managed with grace even though he grew up with only marginal stability. No one in the family lacks love for one another, and that's what makes this story so poignant.-Elizabeth Brinkley

Kirkus Reviews
When four out of five family members suffer from bipolar disorder, life at home is volatile. "Depression is a slow crushing death," writes Lovelace, who was one of the four. "Mania is a wild roller coaster run off its tracks, an eight-ball of coke cut with speed. It's fun and frightening as hell." He began to show the first signs of bipolar disorder in his late teens, but resisted treatment and counseling for years, preferring instead to self-medicate with a lively mix of illicit drugs, alcohol and extreme travel. Most of the action in his debut memoir centers around a destructive summer during which the author, his father and his younger brother were all committed to psychiatric institutions. Lovelace's mother had been a depressive for as long as he could remember; he'd witnessed her horrible bouts of postpartum depression after the births of his sister and brother. His father, a minister and scholar of early American religious movements, had seemed merely eccentric until one year when he was hit with a bad case of what the family called "whim-whams." In the depths of Dad's depression, the family came unraveled. Lovelace fled his loved ones, and tried to hide from the reality of his own illness. His sister, the only unaffected one in the family, set out for college. Isolated at home with two severely depressed parents, their younger brother eventually lashed out and was hauled off to a mental hospital. The author describes medications and the process of recovery, but his book's major strength is its language, which beautifully mimics his bipolarity. When Lovelace chronicles a manic episode, the prose comes in breathless, eloquent bursts; when he describes crushing depression, it's asthough all the air is being sucked out of the room. Compelling, charming and devastating. Agent: Byrd Leavell/Waxman Literary Agency
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780525950783
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated
  • Publication date: 9/4/2008
  • Pages: 304
  • Product dimensions: 8.54 (w) x 5.76 (h) x 0.98 (d)

Meet the Author

David Lovelace is a writer, carpenter, and former owner of the Montague Bookmill, a bookstore near Amherst, Massachusetts. His poetry has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and was shortlisted for the Patterson Literary Review's Allen Ginsberg Award.
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