When Red Is Blue by Sabrynne McLain

Review: Even though this was a fictionalized account of the author’s own early life and young adult years, the pressing issues addressed are no less important or impacting. Also, I do not believe the novel itself should be considered a less accurate portrayal of mental illness and alcoholism which many children have to grow up with, just because it has fictional characters acting out the parts the author experienced personally.

Just as a side point, my personal angle of reading When Red Is Blue, I couldn’t help but view the different circumstances of setting and players, fictional or real, in which such situations are seen as dysfunctional and terrible, abnormal, yet for some who do not know Native Americans but think they do or accept the stereotypes, they consider this normal and widespread in native households.

It’s hard to critique such a work, or I find it so, because it is intimately, crucially personal to the author. Some reviewers don’t seem to care one way or the other, just concerned with “spot-checking” or personal opinion, seeming to lack empathy or concern for such matters but I do. I can prefer a novel  might have been written in a way that showed more through descriptive actions than what the reader was told happened, and happened in thus-and-so  way, for this read more like a memoir or autobiography, where such style is often an inevitable part of presentation. The progression of the story, the events introduced, the repeated “little” devastations that still can somehow inspire you to be stronger and overcome? In this overly coddled age (for some), a story like this makes you remember the “get it done” roots that has kept families and individuals going, though sometimes they felt they were going to fall apart.

When Red Is Blue is a vivid, sometimes blunt, but never less than enlightening work which, whatever your background or socio-economic level, can be understood and poignantly so by those who’ve had to deal with the same on some level.

Description: Kate Faraday, a young woman from Michigan, is busy completing her master’s degree and making plans to move to California. But an urgent phone call from her father prompts her to return to her hometown of Cooper, where she discovers that her mother, a paranoid schizophrenic, has stopped taking her medication and once again lapsed into her illness.

After Kate’s attempt to drive her mother to a mental hospital ends in near disaster, Kate drops her off at her house and returns to Lansing. When she doesn’t arrive at her father’s house for Thanksgiving, Kate fears the worst. Just before Christmas, her mother is found frozen to death beside a creek that runs along the outskirts of town.

Kate’s mother’s death forces her to encounter numerous past acquaintances from her hometown, causing her to relive memories of growing up with a mentally ill mother and alcoholic father, though he has been “on the wagon” since her junior year in college.

Over the next few months, Kate feels helpless as she watches her father’s health decline. After admitting him to hospital, she discovers that he has resumed drinking. She realizes that, though her parents have been divorced since she was thirteen, her mother has always been his reason for living. The pain of losing her is either more than he can handle without his favorite vice or he is attempting gradual suicide — or both.

When Red Is Blue is a fictionalized account of events that took place during my childhood and twenties. It paints a vivid picture of the emotional trauma and self-esteem issues faced by children of dysfunctional parents, while leading the reader through a journey of self-discovery and self-acceptance.

This book appeals to readers looking for a character-driven story about overcoming life’s obstacles. It also resonates with family members of alcoholics and the mentally ill, of which there are over 60 million in the U.S. alone.

  • Paperback & Kindle Editions
  • Published: March 2012
  • Publisher:  Elevin Books
  • ASIN: B0075EVGSO
  • Availability: Sabrynne McLain.com

Author Profile:

Sabrynne McLain received her B.A. and M.S. degrees from Michigan State University and then went on to hold numerous positions in marketing, operations and finance in the U.S. and U.K. In addition to her first published article in the Journal of International Consumer Marketing, she has written for travel and lifestyle websites such as Pology.com and Panalba.com. During her tenure as a financial adviser, she wrote a three-part series on financial planning for Scottish Woman magazine.

She currently divides her time between writing (her author blog, the occasional article and her next novel) and running an editing and proofreading business. She lives in Edinburgh, U.K. with her partner Gareth Thomas and a very demanding cat named Barnaby. When Red Is Blue is her first novel.

When Red Is Blue received the 2012 Trophy Award from the NNAAMI for “a book or publication that has provided an excellent standard or understanding of the needs of young people and others who have a mentally ill parent.” You can find more about Sabrynne McLain’s upcoming books by visiting: www.sabrynnemclain.com.

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