Friday, December 6, 2013

Review: What I Had Before I Had You by Sarah Cornwell

*Won Through a Goodreads Giveaway*

WOW!!!! What an eye-opening literary account of bipolar disorder and how it has manifested itself in a family!

Olivia returns to Ocean Vista with her two children, Carrie and Daniel, in tow. She decides that a stop on the beach may be just what the doctor ordered before they make the final trek to New York City where the beginning of a new life is on the horizon. During this time at the beach, her nine-year-old son Daniel, goes missing. The last thing Olivia needs is to be searching for her son when she's still coming to terms with the death of her marraige, and Daniel's recent bipolar disorder diagnosis.

What I Had Before I Had You is beautifully narrated by Olivia. She recounts the time when she was fifteen and had to begin facing the truth of the world she lived in. As an only child to a whimsical mother who often disappeared for days, was her reality. Reflecting on the days of her youth in an abandoned hotel, as she searches for Daniel, is how we learn of her troubled past.

Sarah Cornwell brilliantly fuses a tense, yet heartening, plot with eloquent prose and dynamic characters. The younger Olivia is trying to find her way in a world where she never quite felt she belonged. Actually, many of the characters find they are trapped in worlds that aren't suitable causing them to be tourists in lives in which they don't belong. As a teen, her escape is found in running with a fast crowd and as an adult, it's in the arms of random lovers.

Olivia maintains the guilt for so many instances in her life. Leaving her ill mother at a young age, subjecting her children to that same abandonment, and presently losing Daniel. Her one ally. Carrie is someone she barely recognizes anymore. Olivia can feel the resentment and embarassment that permeates from her teenage pores. Unlike her own condition, whatever ails Carrie can't be fixed with pills.

What I Had Before I Had You is not only about bipolar disorder. It's an insightful and detailed chronicle of a family that's trying to put back together the pieces of their lives. In very few pages Sarah Cornwell sucks readers in and forces us to care about Olivia and her family. What I Had Before I Had You is going to be on the minds of readers long after the last page.   ****

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