Reading fiction is a wonderful way to learn about the problems many of us encounter in REAL life. For instance, more people talk freely about domestic violence, alcohol and drug abuse now that it’s in the public conscience, and a frequent topic in popular fiction. But I haven’t read anything about clinical depression, also known as manic depression or bi-polar depression, especially from the point-of-view of the person with the disease. Ashley Prentice Norton has written such novel, IF YOU LEFT (MarinerBooks) and it’s been published this week. It’s a courageous narrative, especially since Ashley’s open about having the disease herself.
“When Althena was released from the hospital this time, she wasn’t exactly sick, but she wasn’t exactly well. She facetiously said she was just swell when asked. She would have to go back to the hospital for after-care outpatient treatment that would supposedly give her life skills to function like a normal person.” IF YOU LEFT (MarinerBooks)
Althea Willows attempts to kill herself for the fifth time at the beginning of IF YOU LEFT. Her husband, Oliver goes through the routine of packing her bag, taking her to the hospital and waiting several days until she can leave. Once released, he proceeds with his part of the relationship, by silently punishing her. He openly cheats with other women and acts passive-aggressively towards her. Althea and Oliver have been married for six years.
Althea suffers from clinical manic depression and is on a cocktail of anti-psychotic drugs. Oliver has stayed by her side since the manic episodes started two years into their marriage. Althea doesn’t understand why he stays, but she’s afraid to ask. They have a ten-year old adopted daughter, Clem who Althea is afraid of. Clem is very smart and prone to irony and sarcasm.
They decide to decorate their beach house and Oliver offers Claire from the office to help. Althea is not happy with the idea, but goes along with it, until she doesn’t. Claire is sent back to the City, Oliver is angry and heads back, too, Clem and Althea stay.
Soon a young 21-year old boy named, Maze is hired to paint several rooms at the Willows’ beach home. Well, you may think you know where this is going, but don’t be so sure. I thought I did and I was wrong.
Miss Athena’s choices surprised me at the end. I’m not sure if I’m happy or sad. I want to believe she mentally grew and became a stronger person that summer out in East Hampton. You’ll have to decide for yourself, when you read IF YOU LEFT.
Pop this one in your beach-bag and take it out to the pool or down to the shore. Don’t forget your sunscreen.
For all things Ashley, check out her Facebook page and Twitter @AshleyPNorton
Ashley Prentice Norton is married with three wonderful children and a career. She lives in NYC.
Thanks to Ashley and her very cool publicist, Leyane, we have one copy of IF YOU LEFT to give away (US only, please). Leave a comment about what comes into your mind when you hear the word depression. I think of antidepressants. We’ll choose a winner Monday.
If you or anyone you knows feels depressed, its important you reach out and speak with a family member or a doctor. If you don’t feel comfortable doing that, there are anonymous crisis phone numbers you can call. The Lifeline Crisis Chat is: 1-800-273-TALK. It’s completely anonymous.