I’ve read several books in the past year or so where some form of mental illness defines a character. Crazy makes good copy. Or at the least, piques readers’ curiosity. Possibly readers see a part of themselves in these characters who are honest enough to share their struggles with the literary world.
In Ka Hancock’s debut novel Dancing on Broken Glass, Mickey Chandler falls head over heels in love with Lucy Houston. But there’s a problem. He has bipolar disorder. Initially, he doesn’t trust himself to take good enough care of Lucy. He fears he will disappoint her, let her down, possibly even harm her physically or emotionally. He can’t risk that. Despite constant medical supervision and regular meds, his wild swings between mania and depression necessitate frequent hospitalizations. Ultimately, love wins and they marry, but they agree never to have children. Until one day Lucy discovers she is pregnant. She has the baby, while at the same time fights a losing battle with breast cancer. After she dies, Mickey deals with those same struggles of self-worth and capability, this time in regards to raising his child. Can he trust himself to be a good father? Should he give the child up for adoption? This book is a realistic and at times painful look at the devastating effects of mental illness on relationships.