MAGICAL SHRINKING by Christiane Wells
Kirkus Star


Stumbling Through Bipolar Disorder
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A sensitive, wildly out-of-control girl grows up battling drug addiction and manic-depression in this memoir of dysfunction.

Given her home environment—a hostile, alcoholic father and a mom who rolled marijuana cigarettes at the kitchen table—it’s not surprising that by the time she left high school, the author was regularly indulging in weed, acid and cocaine, and cutting herself. But these habits were relatively minor problems compared to the voices in her head and the constant cycling between black funks and surges of elation that have her convinced that she is “greatness personified.” To relieve her psychic pain, Wells embarks on an odyssey through the mental-health archipelago and enlarges her illicit armamentarium to include heroin and crack; the result is a horrific downward spiral, suicide attempts, bulimia, innumerable stints in psych wards and rehab, homelessness and a flirtation with crack whoredom. Through it all, Wells is sustained by a support system that includes a string of long-suffering therapists—drawn to them as surrogate fathers, she bombards them with late-night crisis phone calls—who try to stabilize her bipolar swings with their own pharmaceutical cocktails, and her not always helpful mother who swoops in when her daughter overdoses and then relaxes with her over a soothing joint. (One of the book’s many revelations is its depiction of the ubiquity of drugs, legal and illegal, in all walks of American life and the thinness of the line separating the respectable middle class from the addict underclass.) Wells’ story is full of lurid scenes, but she avoids melodrama; her writing has both a lyrical intensity—“I love the feel of a big piece of crack. Rough between my fingers. I hate when I have to break it up too small. Reducing its might.”—and a deadpan humor that dispels bathos. She manages to convey a whirlwind of narcotized craziness with remarkable clarity and insight.

An entrancing journey through the lower depths.

Pub Date: July 14th, 2010
ISBN: 978-0-557-43353-7
Page count: 430pp
Program: Kirkus Indie
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1st, 2011


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