I was deeply moved by this memoir which is a joint creation by two brothers from Calgary. The subject is so close to my heart that it makes writing this review difficult. I've loved people with severe mental health issues. Some of them have committed suicide. Every day at work in the library, I interact with patrons who have differing degrees of mental illness. Alberta's health care system is failing too many of them and the shortcomings are outlined in Bitter Medicine.
Clem and Olivier Martini give a very personal look at the effect of mental illness on a family in which two out of four siblings have been diagnosed with schizophrenia. Olivier's line drawings and Clem's prose are woven together into a sort of hybrid graphic novel/ family memoir/ mental health treatise. It is inspiring, eye-opening and heartbreaking.
Bitter Medicine is one of the final five books competing for the 2011 Alberta Readers' Choice Awards. Have you voted yet? I'm having a hard time deciding. Letters from the Lost is too similar to other grim stories of holocaust survivors to stand out. The Grizzly Manifesto is decent, although the gun-toting bear on the cover really turns me off. Cinco de Mayo has a cover that's even worse, but if you ignore that, you'll find an engaging what-if novel inside. Gruffly charming Robert Kroetsch is in fine form in Too Bad... but my heart is leaning towards Bitter Medicine as the best of them all.