Too Bright to Hear Too Loud to See by Juliann Garey. Publisher: Soho Press (December 2012). Literary fiction. Hardcover. 224 pages. ISBN: 9781616951290.
“That I have been forced into a holding pattern cause rage to rise in me. My tsunami. My chest constricts and I am painfully aware that suddenly, inexplicably, there are tacks and shards of glass circulating through my veins.”
Writing about mental illness is not easy and not often done well. Few manage to make others understand the grit, the pain, the self-effacing letdowns and challenges one suffers as a result of mental illness. You have to write about mental illness with depth, respect, enough clarity, descriptiveness and plenty of humor. Dark humor preferable. In this rapid-fire read, author Juliann Garey provides the reader with a full senses assault, harrowing lows and ridiculous highs.
Making the character Greyson Todd a Hollywood studio executive proves the perfect career for someone hiding his bipolar disorder for decades. Being selfish, arrogant and wealthy. Great coping mechanisms for denial. His father also had been mentally ill although no one knew that at the time. [“The fundamental tools of agenting—lying, manipulation, and negotiation—usually acquired over decades—were skills that came naturally to me. It was what I’d done to survive growing up in my father’s house.”] Amassing enormous wealth allowed Greyson to take off and travel everywhere and then settle in New York without worrying about working. He just worried about everything else.
Quite cleverly, Garey tells Greyson’s story through 12 30-second electroshock treatments. She interweaves each chapter with moments from Greyson’s winding global travels when he let his bipolar illness manipulate him, his memories of his unhappy childhood and struggles with the present and being in the moment and learning to live with this illness. Sadly, Greyson leaves his wife and eight-year-old daughter to travel the world before he’s admitted into a psychiatric hospital a decade later. It’s rather poignant when his college-aged daughter visits him in the psych ward and they start to mend their broken relationship and piece together memories that ECT may or may not have shattered.
–by Amy Steele
FTC Disclosure: I received this novel for review from the publisher.