This post is longer than usual to accommodate the wonderful things the San Francisco Book Review’s Caryn Shaffer had to say about my novel:
“Richard Stone, high-powered L.A. lawyer, has a breakdown, disappears for days, and shows up in a hospital in a manic state. His wife, Clare, deals with the anxiety of discovering Richard’s illness while still caring for her two sons. When Richard returns from the hospital, he becomes deeply depressed, and Clare’s reactions and the reception from his sons makes him even more depressed. Once Richard climbs out of the pit of his depression, he recalls his mother having similar symptoms of bipolar disorder. He seeks out his dad, who tells him the truth about his mother’s death.
“Richard and Clare had met in college, and Clare didn’t notice the small things Richard did that would have been markers for his illness. She quietly struggled with her feelings throughout the book. Richard’s strong personality had always overshadowed her own, and she floundered in her new leadership role in her domestic life. In addition, the attentions of the man she had hired as her gardener forced her to reconsider her dedication to Richard and his illness.
“On the days when I can’t count on him, I kind of put him in a little park in my imagination. I just settle him on a bench there and let him rest the way I would a friend with asthma. I let him catch his breath.”
“Kiss Me Over The Garden Gate is cleanly executed and beautifully written. The author never reveals the characters’ intentions overtly, which is what makes the story so engaging. Only the most important events are selected for portrayal, and the passage of time is clearly communicated as well. The book’s synopsis implies that the story solely revolves around Clare, but Alexis Rankin Popik deftly weaves in perspectives from a manic Richard, Clare’s friend Sara, and even Clare’s older son, Matt. These perspectives show that Richard’s illness affects more than just Clare and the immediate family.
“If the author did not have personal experience in managing bipolar disorder in a friend or loved one, she must have done some thorough research. In a mere 180 pages, the scope and residual effects of Richard’s illness are shown, rippling through every character’s life. The book gave answers to some of the toughest questions loved ones might ask about mental illness, and the characters’ collective struggles are shown compassionately, in a nonjudgmental way. One harrowing incident at the end of the book seemed a little out of place. The conflict throughout the book seemed to center on Richard’s bipolar disorder, but a major event at the end tacked on a new antagonist. While it wasn’t completely out-of-the-blue, it didn’t necessarily feel like it was part of the continuing story. Richard and Clare had definitely changed and reversed roles somewhat, and perhaps the scene was meant to test their new personalities. Clare behaved in a completely different way than she had at the start of the book, and Richard had a turning point in his personality as well.
“Kiss Me Over The Garden Gate is a must-read. It’s short and to the point, but it’s a story that will haunt readers well after the last page is turned.”
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