Author:  Sakeenah and Anika Francis

Publisher: Bridgeross Communications, Canada

ISBN: 978-1-927637-00-5


Have you ever been cruising through life on autopilot barely paying attention to the road when you hit something that jolts you awake?” asks Anika  to introduce this moving and eye-opening memoir. Her excellent use of analogies make this story about a woman with schizophrenia and her roller coaster relationship with her extremely gifted daughter a work that will enlighten and enrich anyone whether they suffer from a diagnosed mental illness or  the difficult vicissitudes of life in hard times, or just the ups and downs of life at any time. The mother is diagnosed when her daughter is only three so Anika’s memories from before that time are “spotty at best” but when her mother begins sending her adult daughter letters chronicling her own memories of her life and her devotion to this daughter, these inspire the wisdom that we hope can come from reflection on the past. For example:

When you grow up with a mother struggling with severe mental illness you don’t have the sense of normalcy as others. This can be good and bad as with most things in life. I did not have the same conventions as many of my other friends and family for that matter. My view of the world was shaped by so many crazy situations that I’d learned to see the sanity in craziness, the joy in the midst of pain, and the golden hearts in people that others wrote off. I always moved through the world a little differently. It gave me a malleablility and flexibility that served me well over the years.” (p.142) 

Her insights are invaluable and beautifully articulated. There are important life lessons in every chapter such as remembering to tell the people you love how you feel often. Anika’s maternal grandparents got custody of her during one of the times that Sakeenah was institutionalized and Anika’s father, from whom her mother had separated, was not as committed to this child as the grandparents. When Anika’s granny dies of a heart attack at only fifty five years of age, Anika wishes she’d have told this woman how important she had been to her.  Later Anika does make positive connections with her father, stepmother and stepsisters.  After many heartwrenching ups and downs, the book ends with mother and daughter traveling to Mexico together and Anika  learns and passes on the most valuable of all lessons:

Some say that unconditional love does not exist in these times but I know differently. I have not loved unconditionally that often in my life. But I can say without a doubt that I love my mother without condition and she loves me the same way. I’ve learned that love can see you through some things, that love is strong and malleable. Love see beyond the surface into the heart of the matter. In the end, love is all that makes sense.” (p. 257)

I cannot recommend this wonderful book highly enough for each and every reader who cares about a world where people love and care for one another. 

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