cover image Manic: A Memoir

Manic: A Memoir

Terri Cheney, . . Morrow, $24.95 (245pp) ISBN 978-0-06-143023-7

Cheney, a former L.A. entertainment lawyer, pointedly dispels expectations of a “safe ride” through this turbulent account of bipolar disorder. With evocative imagery—time-shuffled recollections meant to mirror her disorienting extremes of mood—Cheney conjures life at the mercy of a brain chemistry that yanks her from “soul-starving” despair to raucous exuberance, impetuous pursuits to paralyzing lethargy. Caught in a riptide of febrile impulse, she caroms from seductions to suicide attempts while flirting recklessly with men, danger and death, only to find more hazards in the drastic side effects of treatment. More than a train-wreck tearjerker, the memoir draws strength from salient observations that expose the frustrations of bipolar disorder, from its brutal sabotage of romance and friendship to the challenge it poses to the simplest emotions, such as “the terrors of being happy” that augur mania's onset. Though she sustains an ominous mood and relays horrifying incidents with icy candor, Cheney lightens up at times, as when she marvels at the ease of masking her condition at an office that brings out everyone's manic side. But the narrative hopscotch frustrates readers' need for grounding and context that might clear up Cheney's muddled history and satisfy readers' urge to learn the fallout of her impulse-driven episodes. Her startlingly lucid descriptions of illness merit a more concise chronology. (Feb.)