Book Review | Scattershot

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Heath Robbins

The eccentric but loving family has long been a staple of American literature, movies, and television, and the Lovelaces of Hamilton, Massachusetts, seemed an exemplar of the species: the father, a minister who collected reptiles and showed Rosemary’s Baby to his stunned congregation; the artistic mother who dreamed of illustrating children’s books; three bright children who adored their parents. From the outside, the Lovelace family made for hilarious anecdotes. “Cars were blown up, snakes lost in libraries, boats sunk, iguanas left on curtains and children at gas stations,” David Lovelace writes in his searing memoir, Scattershot: My Bipolar Family (Dutton; $24.95). “So what? We were eccentric and fun. We were madcap. My friends thought it sounded fun and mostly it was, until our disease made it serious.”

“Our disease”–bipolar disorder, which causes its victims to cycle between depression and mania–afflicts four of the five Lovelaces. “Our sickness is chronic and there isn’t a cure. My sister is well. She isn’t bipolar. But the rest of our family–my parents, myself, and my brother–must take medicines for the rest of our lives. We’ve learned that our happiness will always be suspect and simple sadness must taste of despair.”

Reading Scattershot is a field trip to “a desperate circus,” as Lovelace, a poet and a magician with words, puts it. Harrowing as it is at times, his story also hints at the unimaginable heights to which the bipolar mind can soar.

Read a brief excerpt from Scattershot and find more information about the book.


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