In classic books such as Girl, Interrupted and When Rabbit Howls, the mentally ill depict their own harrowing worlds. In Mad House we have an account of the devastating effects of mental illness on the lives of those who share their world: the healthy siblings of those afflicted. Clea Simon was shattered when her older brother, Daniel, a freshman at Harvard, began hearing voices, making it impossible for him to function. He later committed suicide. Schizophrenia next claimed her sister, Katherine, who has moved from one institution to another after refusing any help from her family. Simon, who spoke with hundreds of other siblings of the mentally ill and with experts in the field, confronts the issues healthy siblings face, from guilt (Why do I deserve to be okay?) to fear (Will illness claim me or my children next?) to anger at being neglected by parents overwhelmed by the needs of the mad child. Part memoir, part practical guide, Mad House is a compelling and compassionate book destined to help many people come to terms, as Simon has, with the unique pain of living with a sibling’s mental illness.
About Clea Simon
Clea Simon is a freelance journalist and an editor in the Living/Arts Department of The Boston Globe. A graduate of Harvard, she lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts.