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Hurry Down Sunshine: 02/09/09

"On July 5, 1996, my daughter was struck mad." Thus begins Hurry Down Sunshine, Michael Greenberg's memoir of his daughter's diagnosis of bipolar disorder. One would expect this memoir then to focus on Sally, her diagnosis, treatment and perhaps some extra information about current research. It sort of does but not to the degree I had expected or wanted.

Instead Greenberg focuses on himself and his messed up relationship with his older brother who also has psychiatric problems. So much of the book seems to be about "why me" that I didn't feel enough of a loving connection between a father and daughter or between two brothers.

Hurry Down Sunshine has a few references to James Joyce's Ulysses. Structurally the two share a few similarities: long rambling sentences and no chapter breaks. That's where the similarities end. After the first fifty pages of Ulysses, even though I've struggled with them, I want to read more. After fifty pages of Hurry Down Sunshine, I didn't struggle with the passages but I didn't want to read more.

Interestingly, Sally, the daughter, has a quote in the book that sums up the flaws in the book succinctly: "'Poor, poor Father. Trying to get back your lost genius.'" (p. 31) In other words, Greenberg is trying too hard to write a meaningful memoir. By using all the flowery prose he loses the personal connection and therefore credibility.

I'm not questioning the hardship the Greenbergs must have gone through with Sally's initial breakdown or the on going difficulties that might still exist. The book though didn't make me feel anything that they might have felt. It didn't teach me anything new about the disease or the treatment of it. For these reasons the memoir doesn't work for me.

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