Roses & Thorns

Roses & Thorns

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Defective by Susan Sofayov


University of Pittsburgh law student, Maggie Hovis, battles an enemy she cannot escape—her own brain. Her family calls her a drama queen. Her fiancĂ©, Sam, moves out after she throws a shoe at his head. Maggie knows there is only one way to get him back—control her moods. So she takes the step most of her family is against: therapy. After a diagnosis of Bipolar II Disorder, Maggie begins to investigate her family tree—which is plagued by mental illness and hidden relatives—and develops empathy for her deceased Great Aunt Ella, who lived her life in a mental institution. But Maggie’s journey leads her into fear and insecurity, afraid she’ll end up like Ella and never get Sam back. But what about Nick, her super-sexy old flame, who wants to reignite their passion? And does it even matter, anyway? Won’t mental illness stop any man from loving her?

Review by Rochelle Weber:

Being bi-polar and having gone through a couple of medicinal cocktails as well as several rounds on locked wards, I thought I knew a lot about my disease. But Ms. Sofayov has apparently done a lot more research than I have. In Defective I learned the meaning of a word I’d just drifted across and to which I had not paid much attention—hypomanic.

Like me, Maggie Hovis is a Bi-Polar 2 with Hypomania. Her disease does not manifest itself in long periods of great elation and creativity followed by long periods of deep depression bordering on catatonia. It shows up more as temper tantrums followed by abject apologies and then sleeping it off like an alcohol binge, and walking around like a zombie the rest of the time, sometimes taking to one’s bed, sometimes just wallowing on the couch with the TV on, sometimes managing to put one foot in front of the other when absolutely required to survive, but with one’s very own cloud surrounding one. Bi-polar 2’s have brief flashes of the happy, creative kind of mania during which they may go somewhere fun or start a project, but they rarely finish these things. Maggie’s boyfriend, Sam, referred to those times as “Beautiful Maggie.”

[My first “book” was actually a collection of first chapters. I had about 300 pages of the beginnings of books, most of which I threw away. Goodness, I wish I’d kept them, but when one is sofa-surfing homeless, one can only carry so much luggage. You can’t be a hoarder on your friends’ couches.]

Maggie also has voices in her head telling her people will find out what a fraud she is when she does something right, or chiding her when she doesn’t quite do something perfectly, just like mine. I just never realized they were part of my disease.

[“A 3.25 grade point average. Couldn’t make cum laude, could you? You’re a failure.” “Yeah, but to be fair, I did that one semester working full time while going to school in a wheel chair with my leg in a cast, and the CTA not-so-Special Services kept leaving me sitting in that cold corridor and caused me to miss three classes because they went to the wrong building in my office complex. If they’d missed me one more time, it would’ve been an automatic fail.” “Lame excuse for getting two Bs that semester if you ask us.” [My voices, not Maggie’s. I call them The Committee.)]

The information about the disease is woven into a search for Maggie’s family history, a manic obsession with getting her boyfriend back, and the reappearance of an old flame, all tempered with the words of her cousin. “Face it, Mags. We’re defective. No one’s ever going to love us.”

Well, I loved Maggie Hovis. She and her family were fascinating, well-drawn, three dimensional characters—even Aunt Ella who died before Maggie was born. The villain in Defective was one with whom I am all too familiar and Ms. Sofayof definitely did her homework to bring it to life in dazzling HD-3D. I could not put this book down, except when it took me into my own head and I stopped to ruminate about my own struggles with B-P 2 and hypomania.

Yes, Maggie, I loved you. Enough to give you five [Yes, 5! Ignore the Committee and just say “Thank you.”] Roses. Whether you’re bi-polar, living with someone who is, not related to but curious about the disease, or just looking for a good romance with real demons, Defective is a great read.

Length: 308 Pages
Print: $11.53
Digital: $2.99

Thanks for visiting. Rose, Julie, Donna, & Rochelle

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