A Mother, Her Sun, And Mania
In this fictionalized memoir, a mother recounts the emotional journey she and her son take when he becomes mentally ill.
Jack is known as the Sun King because as a child he resembled the illustrated boy in his mother’s deck of tarot cards. Already on the verge of madness, Jack leaves for college in Ohio but secretly decides not to take his medicine. When Jack becomes manic, his mother must retrieve him from a psychiatric hospital and bring him home to Oklahoma. She and Jack spend the next year dealing with court hearings, doctor appointments, and counseling sessions precipitated by his bipolar disorder and resultant psychosis.
Guiding Jack back to sanity leads his mother to a fateful decision—one that brings about her own emotional unraveling. In the end, it is the Sun King who must save his mother.
The Sun King is a heartbreaking account of Jack’s journey with Bipolar Disorder shown through the eyes of his mother. It takes some time to grow attachments to the characters due to the backstory only developing near the end. I appreciate wanting to build up to the mother’s pregnancy story but it should have come earlier in the book. Once you get to know the characters, especially Jack, it becomes obvious what steps they’ll take next. But that doesn’t make the book any less enjoyable.
I find using the term ‘enjoyable’ strange to label this book with as the undertones are incredibly sad. They show the depths of love a mother has for her son and how far she’ll go to make things right. However, in the end it seems this is a journey he needs to figure out on his own. There’s only so much help she and medical professionals can give before Jack has to take control of his own issues. He’s not ready to take that path at that time. Jack not taking his pills is core to the reason he cannot overcome his manic episodes. He does some truly scary and worrying acts during those times that make you wonder how he managed to stay alive.
I truly can feel his mother’s determination to not give up on her son. The crazy long drives to and from his college campus, the endless trips to crisis centres and many other factors. These all define her strength and willing to care for her son to the very end of time. It’s heart-wrenching to watch her decline as the book goes on. Mental health problems do not affect only the one suffering them but also those who love them the most.
It is heartbreaking to know that this is a story that can be related to by so many. If anything, it has provided me with a better understanding of what happens during a manic episode. There are some humorous elements to the book during Jack’s manic episodes and they keep the book from becoming too sad to read. The depth the novel goes to explain the condition is sheer proof that the author has been through similar hard times. This makes the fictional aspects of the book become increasingly more realistic. It almost makes you feel as though you are also living it with the characters.
My only criticisms are the random sections thrown into chapters that arguably are confusing at times or don’t need to be there. I’d have liked the backstory to be provided sooner as it knocks the flow of the novel slightly with them coming so far in. Other than that, I truly did think this was beautifully written and the imagery created was incredible. I highly recommend anyone to read The Sun King and give it a 4.5/5 rating.
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