"Songs of Three Islands" is a stunning memoir about the astounding Carnegie family's struggle with mental illness combined with a beautifully evoked meditation on motherhood and madness. In describing five generations of mental instability in the female line of her family Millicent Monks attempts to bring mental illness out of the shadows and comfort those who are suffering from thoughts and feelings they don't always understand. In her own words 'People, they say, are divided into two kinds: those who have known inescapable sorrow and those who have not. Because sorrow cannot be changed, one's lifestyle and feelings must be changed to accommodate it'. This heartfelt account highlights the struggle and frustration felt as you watch those you love being destroyed by mental illness. It's easy to presume that having riches beyond your wildest dreams automatically means you have it all, but being blighted by mental illness is something many families, rich and poor alike, struggle to come to terms with. This memoir will not only leave the reader feeling positive and enlightened, but filled with enormous admiration for and gratitude towards Millicent Monks for sharing this unique story about her legendary family. This frank account highlights her own personal struggle and determination to survive against many odds.
The book is broken up into three segments that correspond with the time the author lived at each of the three islands. It’s not a polished book in that the story doesn’t always flow smoothly but it is exactly this aspect which highlights how the author is writing from the heart/memories. Her writing is so descriptive that she puts you in the islands right along with her. Sadly, what I took away from this memoir is that it doesn’t matter how much money/resources you have. In the end, none of it is a match for mental illness.
*I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Roberta