Scattershot: My Bipolar Family
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Scattershot: My Bipolar Family

3.51 of 5 stars 3.51  ·  rating details  ·  354 ratings  ·  75 reviews
The Glass Castle meets An Unquiet Mind in a mesmerizing, loving memoir about growing up in a family plagued by bipolar disorder.

Four out of the five people in poet David Lovelace's immediate family have experienced bipolar disorder including David himself. His relationship with the disease began with his artist mother's severe depressions during his boyhood in the 1960s a...more
Hardcover, 304 pages
Published September 4th 2008 by Dutton Adult (first published August 20th 2008)
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Jan 10, 2009 Teresa rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: people interested in psychology and the workings of fundamentalism
"Some of us take lithium and antidepressants, and most everyone believes these pills are fundamentally wrong, a crutch, a sign of moral weakness, the surrender of art and individuality. Bullshit. Such thinking guarantees tragedy for the bipolar. Without medicine, 20 percent of us, one in five, will commit suicide. Six-gun Russian roulette gives better odds... Without them, sooner or later the bipolar brain will go bang. I know plenty of potheads who sermonize against the pharmaceutical companies...more
Jan 30, 2009 Paul rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommended to Paul by: Boston Globe Magazine
I was curious to read this book as the author and his siblings were former students of mine. The style is very poetic, yet very raw. He masterfully describes what it is like to live with bipolar disorder - and further to be surrounded by loved ones with the disorder. David's life is not one that any of us would want to live, but I found him to be a compassionate individual with a wonderful heart and an astoundingly clear knowledge of his issues. He fights bravely, if not always wisely, against h...more
I am a teacher of students who have been diagnosed as bipolar. I am also a friend and family member who has had first-hand experience with the conflict that occurs when faith collides with an illness that is difficult, if not impossible, to understand/explain/treat/cure. As such, I found this book invaluable. The author poignantly depicts the effects of this illness on his own life as well as the lives of his family and friends. He is brutally honest, as well as thoughtful and thorough. It is a...more
Dec 05, 2008 Anastacia rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: those who enjoy memoirs and/or psychology.
Recommended to Anastacia by: N/A
For whatever reason I seem to be drawn to memoirs, and lately I've found myself disappointed in so many of them. They're completely unbelievable, poorly written or just bad. Scattershot was definitely *not* one of those books for me. Though the subject matter is sad and it's sometimes tragic, it's never unbelievable, as the author weaves in all those feelings we all have with family - tenderness, guilt, duty, love, and coming to terms with the faults and "isms" of our families. I was very pleasa...more
Nov 10, 2008 Nancy rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Anyone with Bipolar Illness, or who knows someone with it.
Recommended to Nancy by: N.A.M.I.
Absolutely the very best book I have ever read about bipolar illness. Most books are either full of statistics or unrealistic expectations of recovery or disappointment. This is the only book I have read that actually deals with the feelings of the author, who lives in a family that suffers from multiple bipolar illnesses (including his own). How he manages to deal with both his father and mother's symptoms, as well as his own and later on, his younger brother's, is a measure of the author's str...more
When I was growing up in Hamilton MA, the Lovelace family was always around. My mother worked at the seminary where Richard Lovelace was a professor and Jonathan was a grade ahead of me. When I was a junior in high school, the grapevine reported that Jon Lovelace had to be taken away because of a "chemical imbalance". I remember his best friend being hounded on the bus for having a "nutcase" for a friend. So, finding this book was amazing since everything hapened in a time where no one talked op...more
shannon madden
The memoir was more focused on the author himself, but of course with family anecdotes tied in. The stories managed to be humorous despite their heaviness and tragedy - a combination that reminded me of the tone of The Glass Castle.

I was interested in reading this because of my own family's experiences with bipolar disorder. Although my family (as a whole) and family members' individual experiences were quite different from those described by Lovelace, I'm glad I read this. Lovelace insight blen...more
May be biased - I was one of David's "three friends" mentioned on page 85 - but this is a wonderfully written heartfelt memoir. And it explains a lot about those halcyon days in 1970s Hamilton, MA, in the shade Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary; and what all happened to David (and his oft kooky and storied family) after we'd lost touch - quite an odyssey he's had. Great spot on descriptions of our adopted friend "William Beck" (a pseudonym, no doubt a prophylactic insisted upon by the publishe...more
Wow. Unlike any memoir I (or you) have ever read. David Lovelace is gifted, lucky, funny, honest, and bipolar. In fact his whole nuclear 1950s family is - mom, dad, and younger brother - only his sister did not inherit this disease. And it IS, as David points out, a DISEASE - a malfunction in the circuitry and chemicals in the brain. Counselors can be invaluable, but without medication, the prognosis is poor and the chance of commitment is high. There is too much focus on Lithium in this book,...more
One of the best memoirs I've read in a while, David writes with humor, insight and transparency. He shares his own manic life and for those of us who have had experienced our own "craziness" in our families, it feels good to know we are not alone.
This memoir was entertaining and enlightening. It covers some dark stuff, so it doesn't make for light reading but I m glad I read it.
Lovely book painting a picture of highs and lows - inner realms and outer. I can relate having a bi-polar parent.
Beth Peninger
My rating is most likely because I found the book to be...disturbing...frustrating...slightly unbelievable. Except I am sure it all is completely believable to those who have lived with and witnessed bipolar.
As Lovelace begins to explain his family history I thought to myself, "What are the odds that his parents found each other, married, and both have bipolar? I mean really what are the odds? And do his parents truly both have it or does one have something different that looks like it?" Those...more
This is the kind of book that saying, "I really liked it," makes me feel as if I'm saying, "I really liked that train wreck." The words in the Goodreads rating system just aren't appropriate to the situation, but that's what I've got to work with, so . . . I really liked this book.

The author describes in vivid detail what it was like to grow up in a family in which BOTH parents suffer from mental illness -- a genetic legacy that they unwittingly gift to two of their three children, including the...more
An invaluable and nuanced contribution to understanding the manic experience ... One of my favorite passages from the book where he talks about the fine and often dangerous, invisible line between mania, transcendence and art:

“There’s a transcendental romance to mania, to this drawing together. And I believed, still believe, that this mania is true, that the scattershot visions of madness are holy. They are also fucking crazy and hopeless and sad. At its core the transcendental manic experience...more
It was mildly entertaining at the best of times and a struggle to make it through at the worst of times, when reading Scattershot. This is the true story of a family severely affected by bipolarity, to the tune of four out of five members being afflicted. I did learn a bit more about the illness through the episodic writing, but felt the lack of flow made it a less than enjoyable read when waiting for a real story to emerge. However, life stories don’t always have a proper flow, and certainly no...more
Nov 11, 2008 Christina rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: anyone interested in bipolar disorder
Shelves: book_club
We read this in Book Club for "National Mental Disorder Month" or something like that, and this book was really great. This memoir focuses not only on the author, but on his other family members and their lives as well. The book also focuses on the family as a whole, and how they are affected by four of the five members having biopolar disorder. It's a very good weaving of the different characters and elements of the family, and you leave with an absolutely clear picture of the family (special t...more
Jun 17, 2008 Aili rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Rachel, Alice
David Lovelace, his father, mother, and younger brother have all been diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Only his younger sister seems to have dodged the bullet. But bipolar disorder was not well recognized, nor were there very good treatment options, until the mid-1990s. So David and his family spend years struggling and hurting themselves and each other. This memoir is Lovelace's attempt to educate the lay public about his disorder and to caution his fellow sufferers (and their families) from t...more
3.5 Stars

So I don't know whether it is because this book is not my usual cup of contemporary/fantasy tea and it is an adult memoir on an intense topic, but this book was slow. The content itself on mental illness interests me, but several times throughout the book I was bored. I mean, David Lovelace has gone through alot in his life , but there was so much that I think was unnecessary.

I have had this book sitting on ny shelf for a few years now. I am happy to now say that I have finally read it...more
AJ LeBlanc
This book is fantastic. The guy who wrote it used to own the Montague Book Mill which makes it extra cool.

David Lovelace is the oldest of three kids. Both of his parents are bipolar. He's bipolar. His brother is bipolar. The only one who missed out on the fun is his sister, and she goes on to college to study psychology.

The story bounces around from his childhood to present time, covers his parents' lives, his time in college, and everything else. He details his own depression and watching it ta...more
Shellie (Layers of Thought)
Scattershots is a sad/yet "realistic perspective" of a man whom has grown up within a family, including himself, which all but one has a chemical brain imbalance. They are also very religious, which compounds the situation in many ways. All of the afflicted Lovelaces have delusional religious experiences.
Lovelace describes his descent into madness/mania in depth. This to me was a bit overdone - however it portrays the intensity of his experience from an almost poetic perspective. It gives the re...more
David Lovelace portrays his bipolar life journey with an honest, wise eye. He gives an accurate description of life as a person with bipolar disorder, from both the "patient" and support system perspectives. I think this book will resonate with anyone who has experienced life with or as a "manic-depressive." It *may* be helpful to read as a person who is new to the bipolar world, although I wonder if the author's prolific halluncinogenic drug use would make a newcomer (to the disease) discount t...more
Patricia Geller
If I review another memoir of a crazy or dysfunctional family, you have my permission to take away my library card or institutionalize me....your choice.
The author takes us inside his troubled family, and shows us what it's like to be bipolar. A courageous book.
Oct 28, 2012 Shawna added it
This book really helped me understand both what it feels like to be bipolar and what it takes to deal with someone who suffers from the disease. Admittedly the story lagged a bit in the middle when the narrator was in the midst of an extended period of aimless wandering, and I began to wonder if he was ever going to return to the opening story of his mother and father's drastic deterioration. In the end, I think his wife must be a saint. To take on all that potential drama, never knowing when yo...more
Wow....if you think your family is crazy, just read this.

This was a really quick read for me, the story never got slow and even when the author, who along with his family suffers from manic depression, goes into detail about the more medical aspects of things, it doesn't bog you down and it is easy to keep reading.

But he doesn't make you feel overly bad for them, and I didn't feel like he was begging for sympathy. The story is really sad at times too.

I would love to read this from the sister's p...more
Sally Whitehead
Lovelace, his parents, and his brother, all live with bipolar disease and this well written and compelling memoir gives an account of their experiences through the literal highs and lows.

Darkly comic, yet resoundingly sincere, this book is, at times, exhausting. To his credit Lovelace has managed to avoid pretty much all schmaltz and psycho babble and instead delivers a real account of how he genuinely learned to LIVE with this disease.

Some of the descriptions of his manic episodes are enough t...more
I am bi-polar and it is actually very hard living with myself. I can't imagine living in a family of bi-polars. I found this book hard to read for me.
I have gone off my med's a few times with disasterous results. I wound up in the hospital most times. Having a religios background and having people tell you if you had enough faith in God that this wouldn't be happening, does not help. I can't see how somebody that is bi-polar ever lasting in a Church work enviroment.
The book is depressing but so...more
This book is written by a man diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder. Four of five members of his family of origin are also Bipolar. Roughly 98% of the book was about his "crazy" exploits and substance abuse and very little was written about actually getting help and the process of learning to take responsibility for controlling his mood swings. I was hoping that this would be a book to recommend to bipolar clients to give them hope that they can learn to live with this horrendous disease. Very disappo...more
The state of psychiatry and psychiatric drugs was abysmal in the 50's and 60's when this family needed it the most. Fascinating read about how the family managed multiple mental illnesses in multiple family members. A compassionate look at bipolar disease, the way it manifests in people, the toll it takes on the family members of the mentally ill person and the toll it takes on the mentally ill person himself. And, thank God for psychiatric drugs.
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David Lovelace is a writer, carpenter, and former owner of the Montague Bookmill near Amherst, Massachusetts. His memoir, SCATTERSHOT was published by Dutton Books in 2008 and is Lovelace's poignant and humorous account of bipolar disorder's effects on his family. Lovelace's poetry has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize as well as the Paterson Review's Allen Ginsberg Award. Lovelace lives in west...more
More about David Lovelace...
Scattershot Adult Bipolar Disorder: Complete Handbook Full Blown: Me and My Bipolar Family

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“Depression is a painfully slow, crashing death. Mania is the other extreme, a wild roller coaster run off its tracks, an eight ball of coke cut with speed. It's fun and it's frightening as hell. Some patients - bipolar type I - experience both extremes; other - bipolar type II - suffer depression almost exclusively. But the "mixed state," the mercurial churning of both high and low, is the most dangerous, the most deadly. Suicide too often results from the impulsive nature and physical speed of psychotic mania coupled with depression's paranoid self-loathing.” 120 likes
“Compared to bipolar's magic, reality seems a raw deal. It's not just the boredom that makes recovery so difficult, it's the slow dawning pain that comes with sanity - the realization of illnesss, the humiliating scenes, the blown money and friendships and confidence. Depression seems almost inevitable. The pendulum swings back from transcendence in shards, a bloody, dangerous mess. Crazy high is better than crazy low. So we gamble, dump the pills, and stick it to the control freaks and doctors. They don't understand, we say. They just don't get it. They'll never be artists.” 95 likes
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