Jessie's emerging mental illness led her into a life of addictions, five failed marriages, and to the brink of suicide. She fought to raise her children despite her ever worsening mental conditions and under the strain of damaged romantic relationships. Her sister Glenn and certain members of their family tried to be supportive throughout the ups and downs, and Glenn's vignettes in RESILIENCE provide an alternate perspective on Jessie's life as it began to spiral out of control. Jessie was devastated to discover that mental illness was passed on to her son Calen, but getting him help at long last helped Jessie to heal as well. Eleven years later, Jessie is a productive member of society and a supportive daughter, mother, sister, and grandmother.
In RESILIENCE, Jessie dives into the dark and dangerous shadows of mental illness without shying away from its horror and turmoil. With "New York Times" bestselling author and Pulitzer Prize finalist Pete Earley, she tells of finally discovering the treatment she needs and, with the encouragement of her sister and others, the emotional fortitude to bring herself back from the edge.
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2014-11-24
- Reviewer: Staff
In a heartfelt journey through self-destructive manic-depressive states, Close (The Warping of Al) chronicles her journey to recovery and activism with the help of actress Glenn Close, her older sister. The author was born in Connecticut in 1953, the youngest of the four Close children. After their parents, doctor Bill and Bettina, became missionaries in the Christian evangelical group Moral Re-Armament (MRA), the family moved to the Belgian Congo in 1960, where Bill became the personal physician to Colonel Joseph Mobutu and his army. Shuttled between Africa and her mother’s relatives in Greenwich, Conn., the young author stumbled into destructive behavior without much supervision, experimenting with sex and drugs; at the age of 17, her parents encouraged her to get married to an abusive boyfriend rather than “living in sin.” Close moved to California; Washington, D.C.; Texas; and Wyoming, remarrying again and again and living on her trust fund. Her manic-depressive episodes remained undiagnosed into adulthood and brought out erratic behavior and heavy drinking, even as she had to care for her two sons and daughter. By the early 1990s she was having wild mood swings and suicidal thoughts, until she was finally diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Close’s story alternates with brief corroborative vignettes written by her sister in a belabored and grim memoir that will nonetheless reach its intended audience thanks to the author’s famous sister and their shared nonprofit group geared toward mental health, Bring Change 2 Mind. (Jan.)
A sister's silent struggle
Even before reading the first words of Resilience: Two Sisters and a Story of Mental Illness, it’s obvious that this is no ordinary memoir. First there’s the cover, with author Jessie Close in the embrace of her sister, actress Glenn Close. Then there are the photos inside, with captions like, “My dad on the porch of our house in the paracommando camp in Zaire.”
It’s been a harrowing ride for Jessie Close, and not just because of her famous sister, or a father who served as personal physician to an African leader, or a family that was swallowed up by a movement known as Moral Rearmament (MRA), whose “Up with People” image hid a darker side that estranged her from her parents. Now 61, she has battled severe bipolar disorder, exacerbated by alcoholism, since her teens.
Resilience is her story, with occasional vignettes from Glenn. It’s quite a journey, with detours to Zaire, Switzerland and India before Close finally settles in Montana. As husbands, houses and bad decisions pile up, it’s painful to read but hard to put down—especially when it becomes clear to Close that her older son, Calen, has inherited the mental illness that runs in the family.
With wealthy ancestors and a trust fund to lean on, Close can afford top-quality mental health care for both herself and her son, although she inexplicably doesn’t receive a diagnosis of bipolar disorder until she is almost 50. Even then, she struggles with suicidal thoughts and only gets her illnesses under control with medicine, sobriety and a revamped lifestyle.
With a title like Resilience, it’s a foregone conclusion that the book will end on a hopeful note—in Close’s words, “a new chapter in my life, one of sobriety, hope and purpose.” With her sister’s encouragement, Close is telling her story to the world in hopes of removing the stigma from mental illness. It’s a story well worth reading.