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Rachael Siddoway
An Impossible Wife
Mitch and Sonja’s marriage faces challenges unlike most. Mitch falls in love with Sonja from their first meeting, but despite the passion between them, Sonja’s harrowing struggle with bipolar disorder creates roadblocks to their happily ever after. Written by the couple’s own daughter, An Impossible Wife, is a raw, honest look at everything it takes to love a partner with a mental illness and proves that even friendly fire can draw blood. This true story crafts a compelling and heart-wrenching narrative about love, mental health, and the difficulties that emerge when the two are combined. An Impossible Wife takes an intimate and poignant look at a marriage fighting to survive the challenges and heartbreaks that go along with mental illness.
Siddoway tackles the impact of mental illness on marriage in her moving memoir, a follow-up to An Impossible Life. Siddoway’s parents, Mitch and Sonja Wasden, married young, certain they’d be happy despite being “polar opposites.” When the first cracks of Sonja’s bipolar disorder appear, their life together is upended: Sonja vacillates between mania, selling joint mutual funds and racking up thousands of dollars of debt, and deep depression, collecting obituaries and fantasizing about her own death. Eventually, Sonja attempts suicide, and Mitch, a hospital CEO who on the surface seems to have the perfect life, also reaches a breaking point–and the entire family struggles to persevere as they face the aftershocks.

Siddoway writes that “many silent tears were shared” during the years covered by this heartbreaking chronicle, and her eloquent account bears witness to their excruciating pain endured by this family. Readers will be riveted by Sonja’s gradual descent to rock bottom–a vivacious young mother who transforms into a virtual stranger–and memories of nights passed sobbing on the kitchen floor and her hosing down the inside of a car at a car wash while en route to church. Mitch’s fight to keep her safe is equally moving, from tending to her basic needs during bouts of depression to treating wounds from her self-harming. The turning point comes when Sonja’s argument with 16-year-old Lincoln devolves into an active suicide attempt and forced hospitalization.

Despite such a painful topic, Siddoway effectively draws readers in with rare fluency and power, highlighting both the unequivocal love between her parents and their exhaustive crusade to take back their lives. Sonja’s momentous discovery of Dialectical Behavioral Therapy alters their course, delivering a happy ending to an otherwise painfully melancholic tale, and Siddoway skillfully weaves in mental health advocacy without resorting to clinical overwhelm. This gut-wrenching examination of one family’s tenacity in the face of debilitating mental illness is a lighthouse of hope.

Takeaway: A heartrending chronicle of unswerving love, family, and victory over incapacitating mental illness.

Great for fans of: Paolina Milana’s Committed, David Crow’s The Pale-Faced Lie, Stephen Hinshaw’s Another Kind of Madness.

Production grades
Cover: B+
Design and typography: A
Illustrations: N/A
Editing: A
Marketing copy: A+