Family Skeletons: A Web of Mental Illness
by Elayne Gilliam
Author Reputation Press

"Even the mulberry tree dropped berries for me to pick up along with the beer cans and trash from odd visitors. When I looked at the tall trees and felt the breeze in the yard, I sometimes thought I could be happy there forever."

This book chronicles the author's life experiences and their entwinement with mental illness. Gilliam shares her struggles with her depression, her son Bret's diagnosis of schizophrenia, and her daughter Dora's suicide. Her prose is graceful with the heavy stories, and she balances them well with anecdotes of her accomplishments.

Readers will be able to connect with Gilliam's memoir because it is written with raw honesty. She writes about her depression and childhood experiences, especially her relationships with her parents that provoked certain life choices in a sober, matter-of-fact way. While these recollections are well-executed, the author has made the choice to only name two of the characters, her children Bret and Dora, but no others. This results in readers not being able to relate as much to some of the other characters frequently mentioned throughout the book that they otherwise might have been able to.

In contrast, Dora's poetry and journal entries help bring depth to the book and remind readers that she was a real person who suffered from depression. Additionally, the excerpts from Gilliam's sister's work aid readers in understanding the sisters' relationship with their mother and the consequential mental health issues both women dealt with. The photographs in the book also help to strengthen the reader's emotional connection to the characters by providing faces to attach to their names. The book does not expand much on scientific definitions or research on these diagnoses, so it motivates readers to do their own and educate themselves on them. Gilliam's work is suitable for mature young adults and adults who want to read more about real-life experiences with depression and other mental health issues.

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