Storm Chasers – Jenna Blum

“Their breath is agitation, and their life/ A storm whereon they ride.”
Byron

Is it a book review? Is it a therapy session?*

Charles is a bipolar (type 1, rapid cycling, psychotic features) stormchaser, who disappeared for two decades. His twin, Karena gets a phone call from a psych ward, but by the time she gets there, he’s vanished again. She joins professional stormchasers on a bus tour to look for him. Plot and flashbacks happen.

I was compelled to write about bipolarity in a storm context, to explore through Charles and Karena these “storms in the mind’s eye.” These mood storms and their consequences comprise the heart of the novel.
Jenna Blum

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Watching bipolarity happen in a storm context made me wince at times. I’ve read more first person than onlooker descriptions … it’s all rather sobering. Maybe some relief there too, that it isn’t about me.

Of course, the present is where the narrator must stand, looking back and forth and trying not to get whiplash. In books, shadows must always be faced. A tragedy, a secret, a suicide attempt, a love story.

“This is not safe,” Karena says. “They are all fucking crazy. This is not safe at all!”

You’ll learn plenty about storms; the author is a stormchaser herself. She communicates the thrill and the fear well. What the reader learns about bipolar is often a bit stilted, she’s not bipolar and she doesn’t always quite get under its skin the way a novelist like Miriam Toews does.

Ironically, it is when Charles is coming out of a depressive period that he must be watched most closely, for then he is capable of more than suicidal ideation. Then he has energy enough to carry out the act.

Infobytes like that are too textbook, not enough novel. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still an enjoyable read. I’m nitpicking. Mania transforms Charles into the djinn, the Stranger, who exists on a spectrum anywhere from obnoxious to dangerous. Something distresses me about that. He calls depression the Black.

“But you always come out of it,” she reminds him. “Right?”

“So far,” Charles agrees. “But every time I’m so worried I won’t. That I’ll stay there forever. Death is totally not scary in comparison.

Ikr? As ever, manic depression’s collateral damage is enormous.

Yes, Charles is a genius, and he loves his manias. But Charles’s disorder is the gift nobody wants to get given. There is no cure for it, no solution. Either Charles takes his medication and suffers, or he doesn’t and everyone else does. It is colossally, sickeningly, definitively unfair.

It’s very interesting to read stuff by people who love people with bipolar. Sometimes it’s also very hard. The mania especially, is ugly and frequently nasty. I’d be interested in your opinions of that if you read the book.

Tiff and Kevin are right. Her brother will destroy her.

I wish the above wasn’t a possibility when talking about bipolar, but without the right boundaries and support in place, it very much is. Even if there isn’t total destruction, there’s still some horrible attrition. The subplot of romance that winds through the book lightens things and is welcome for it. In all, it held my attention right the way through. Not a remarkable book, but good reading nonetheless. And I liked the offbeat and feelgood aspects.

perfect storm
noun
a particularly violent storm arising from a rare combination of adverse meteorological factors.
an especially bad situation caused by a combination of unfavourable circumstances.

*or just a lazy quotefest?

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Published by

blahpolar

battlescarred, bright, bewildered, bent, blue & bipolar

13 thoughts on “Storm Chasers – Jenna Blum”

  1. Do you track your periods of mania/hypomania and depression?

    My kitchen table is so loaded with papers, a poinsettia, a foam finger(from a basketball game), Christmas cards, empty envelopes, rapidly ripening bananas, jolly rancher candy wrappers, my children’s artwork, loose chalkchalk , Halloween fake nerdy teeth,an empty cracker box, and on and on that I’m praying for hypomania to set in….the worst is total lack of motivation. I feel like I’m letting my family down. They just push the shit aside enough for them to eat. Thank God for paper plates.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Haha, yes hypomania can be handy. Yup, I am bipolar type II. I have a very good friend who has type I and she’s been on fast forward 80% of the time for a full calendar year (as opposed to a dog’s year, not sure why I added calendar). I really can’t relate to the insomnia and super-sonic speed at which everything is done.

        I’m tired most of the time, but do have intermittent burst of energy, especially when the sun is shining. My hypomania is informed by creative bursts, a shitload of business ideas, and this is the time when projects are started and abandoned part-way. I have been back and forth to University 3 or 4 times and still can’t claim I have a degree (2 completed years, altogether)

        I think the worst part of this fucked up illness is the broken, and battered relationships. I really want to scream out “It’s not my fault!” And that’s partly true. Problem is people see the symptoms as a faulty personality and not symptoms. It’s a tricky, tricky thing.

        Would you mind sharing what the app’s called?

        Gracias

        Liked by 2 people

        1. Apps: eMoods, Moodtracker, Thriver … and more :)

          Yessssss bipolar in all it’s glory, messing stuff up … I’m (not) enjoying a mixed state right now, been verbose for ages, but right now I have to think v e r y s l o w l y to find words. Thanks for such a cool answer, sorry I’m too brain dead to respond properly at the moment.

          :)

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  2. I would be curious to know if the author has any real experience with bipolar friends or loved ones. That is what adds the heartache and harsh reality to All My Puny Sorrows or the third part of In a Strange Room (Damon Galgut). Neither has a happy ending but both reflect true stories about the full and ultimate damage mania can inflict on the victim and those around them.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. She says she does, on her website, methinks, section called stormchasers backstory. I must still get the galgut … next time I’m in the city. Fucking mania………..

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  3. You referred to an author named Miriam Toews. Could you suggest a particular book that you read of hers? Also, does she write from the perspective of someone who HAS bipolar disorder, or from the perspective of those loved one has bipolar disorder (like The Stormchasers)?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hello, I haven’t read all of her stuff, but those I did read were the loved one’s perspective. ‘All My Puny Sorrows’ was my favourite by far.

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