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

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Millicent Monks was born into one of the most famous families in America; her great-grandfather was the brother of Andrew Carnegie.

Their fabled wealth enabled them to amass great houses and even private islands, but it was a dynasty torn apart by a succession of tragedies: suicide, alcoholism, and extremities of mental illness were passed on from generation to generation.

For the women in the family, the consequences of this legacy have been ...

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Overview

Millicent Monks was born into one of the most famous families in America; her great-grandfather was the brother of Andrew Carnegie.

Their fabled wealth enabled them to amass great houses and even private islands, but it was a dynasty torn apart by a succession of tragedies: suicide, alcoholism, and extremities of mental illness were passed on from generation to generation.

For the women in the family, the consequences of this legacy have been painful. After a difficult childhood, the author’s daughter was diagnosed at the age of eighteen with what is now known as borderline personality disorder, a debilitating mental illness that was for the parents—in the words of the novelist Sebastian Faulks—"a public shame as well as private devastation." Like all mothers of children afflicted with this condition, Monks suffered from guilt and self-recrimination as she struggled to heal a disease that had no cause but for which she was held responsible.

In the end, through the intervention of a wise Jungian therapist, meditation, and—most important of all—acceptance, the author achieves a self-insight that enables her and her daughter to arrive at a delicate peace. Songs of Three Islands powerfully demonstrates that we are not defined by our inheritance alone.

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Editorial Reviews

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. (June)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781934633342
  • Publisher: Atlas
  • Publication date: 6/22/2010
  • Pages: 213
  • Product dimensions: 5.00 (w) x 7.20 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet 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.

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