Surrounded By Madness: A Memoir of Mental Illness and Family Secrets Book Summary and Study Guide

Detailed plot synopsis reviews of Surrounded By Madness: A Memoir of Mental Illness and Family Secrets

The book chronicles the author's experiences as the daughter of a mother and mother of an adopted daughter with severe mental illness. As a young teen, Rachel did not understand and was frightened by her mother's bouts of deep depression and whirlwind activity, the result of her mother's late onset manic-depression (now called bipolar disorder). Following her mother's suicide, Rachel became an accomplished research scientist in the field of mental illness and family studies. She married and, as the consequence of fertility problems, adopted two children shortly after their birth. As fate would have it, her daughter Sophie was diagnosed with two very severe mental illnesses, bipolar disorder and borderline personality disorder. Rachel describes Sophie's downward spiral as a deeply troubled girl who engages in risky sex, drugs, and expressions of suicide that cause endless turmoil to her family and home life. Rachel describes how she and her husband Josh tried valiantly to get Sophie the help and treatment she needed. Their failure to successfully help Sophie becomes clear when, upon reaching the 18 and becoming a legal adult, Sophie decides to discontinue her medications and therapeutic counseling sessions and leave home. Powerless to prevent this and no longer able to help Sophie, Rachel describes the emotional experience of losing her daughter and how she came to terms with the devastation that mental illness cast on her and her family.
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Best part of story, including ending: It provides an eye-opening glimpse into the realities of mental illness and the destruction that it wrecks upon the person who suffers mental illness and their family.

Best scene in story: The chapter Flu Shot describes the uncanny resolve mustered by 2 year old Sophie to be brave for her first inoculation. This is the first hint that something is truly different about Sophie.

Opinion about the main character: Rachel's ability to share her thoughts and emotions.

The review of this Book prepared by Jonathan E. Brill, Ph.D. a Level 1 Blue Jay scholar

Chapter Analysis of Surrounded By Madness: A Memoir of Mental Illness and Family Secrets

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Plot & Themes

Family, ill    -   Yes Who?    -   Daughter because he/she is    -   mentally ill Phys disability/mental struggle?    -   Yes Struggle with    -   mental illness Period of greatest activity?    -   1950+ Loss of loved one?    -   Yes Which loved one?    -   Daughter

Subject of Biography

Gender    -   Female Profession/status:    -   scientist Ethnicity    -   White Nationality    -   American Unusual characteristics:    -   Mentally Ill


How much descriptions of surroundings?    -   1 () United States    -   Yes Century:    -   1980's-Present

Writing Style

Book makes you feel?    -   concerned If this is a kid's book:    -   Age 16-Adult Pictures/Illustrations?    -   None How much dialogue in bio?    -   significantly more descript than dialog How much of bio focuses on most famous period of life?    -   0-25% of book

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Rachel Pruchno Books Note: the views expressed here are only those of the reviewer(s).
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