by Rachel Howzell Hall
Stacy has been taking care of her sister Rikki for as long as she can remember. The only kids of a religious and troubled family, the two try to keep up a semblance of normalcy despite Rikki’s mental illness. After a suicide attempt in her youth, it’s clear that Rikki’s issues are serious.
As they grow up, Stacy begins to lose herself and her personal life in the drama that her sister creates. Bright and beautiful, most people don’t see Rikki’s struggle at first glance. Her loving husband Matt even minimizes its severity.
Hall’s unflinching look at one family's struggle with mental illness is a powerful one. The reason it seems to work well is that you're seeing the situation through the eyes of the sister. She is not the one with the illness, but we are able to see the havoc it wreaks in everyone’s life through her experiences. It colors every single day of her life. The overwhelming responsibility she feels to protect and care for her sister puts a strain on her relationship with her husband, friends and family members.
Some of the plot feels melodramatic, but I think that’s intentional. Everything with Rikki’s disease is either high or low and so there’s not a lot of room for thoughtful consideration in the mix. Her moods are driven by guilt, rage, jealousy, remorse, etc. The most disturbing aspect of the disease is that some people around her, like her mother, would prefer to pretend there’s no real problem.
BOTTOM LINE: I found the meat of the story to work a bit better than the ending. I felt like it turned a bit into a cautionary tale with a melodramatic tone, but I still got a lot out of it.
"It's difficult to accept that invisible, indestructible things can haunt a person."
"I didn't believe what I had just said, but I couldn't resist the argument. College does that, you know."