Campbell’s provocative fourth novel explores our culture’s treatment of mental illness through the story of one mother’s desperate attempts to save her manic-depressive teenaged daughter.
Keri is the owner of a successful Los Angeles designer clothing resale shop. Her daughter Trina, headed to Brown on a National Merit scholarship, is diagnosed with bipolar disorder at age 17 and put on medication. But Trina rebels against her mother’s rules, experiments with alcohol and marijuana, and won’t take her meds. Without them, she doesn’t sleep for days, becomes violent when her mother tries to restrain her, and runs away. When she turns 18, she can no longer be signed into the hospital for involuntary care. To protect her daughter, Keri calls the police. If they judge that Trina is a danger to herself or others, or is seriously disabled, she can be held against her will in a hospital’s mental ward for 72 hours. Each time this happens, Keri tries to get the hospital to extend the period so the medication that keeps Trina’s disorder under control can become effective, but usually she’s released at this point and goes back to her cycle of mania and depression. Meanwhile, the likable Keri has ongoing relationships with Orlando, an actor; his son, who trusts her enough to tell her he is gay before he is able to tell his parents; a support group for the loved ones of people with mental illnesses, and an ex-husband who puts work before family concerns and refuses to believe his daughter is ill. Through another suffering mother, Keri learns about an underground group of psychiatrists who “kidnap” patients like Trina, give them intensive therapy and save them from the most damaging effects of mental illness. Using Underground Railroad metaphors, Campbell describes Keri’s decision to make such an “intervention” and shows, through various twists and turns, how Keri and Trina change their lives.
Campbell (What You Owe Me, 2001, etc.) transforms one mother’s heartbreaking dilemma into a compassionate and suspenseful story that reverberates long after the final chapter is over.