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Sights Unseen by Kaye Gibbons
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Sights Unseen (1995)

by Kaye Gibbons

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5111119,861 (3.71)30

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The first sentence draws you in. Gibbons explores the effects of a mother's mental illness on her family. She's a talented writer; she captures the reader who lets go ever so reluctantly at the end of each novel. Her writing is to be treasured.

I had read this book earlier, but the date shown is when my book club discussed it.

UPDATED 16May2012
Opening paragraph: Had I known my mother was being given electroconvulsive therapy while I was dressing for school on eight consecutive Monday mornings, I do not think I could have buttoned my blouses or tied my shoes or located my homework. I see myself fumbling with the snap on my skirt, trying to connect the sides, turning around in a circle like a cat chasing its tail. I was twelve, deemed too young to be told what was happening to her and in fact too innocent to surmise it.

Hattie narrates this story, which takes place in the late 1950s to mid 1960s, in a small community in North Carolina, where her grandfather is a prominent citizen who can fix just about anything by opening his wallet. There is much in this culture that is left unseen. In deference to his power, no one refers to Maggie (Hattie’s mother) as a “lunatic” but as “the woman with all those problems.” But more than her mother’s mental illness is unseen in this household. People choose not to see the prejudice and hatred regularly displayed by Mr Barnes. Nor do they acknowledge how he spoils Maggie, practically courting her, while ignoring his own son. No one seems to notice how the children are isolated by their mother’s illness. In fact, it seems that no one sees anyone else’s emotional needs and reactions.

I’ve read nearly all Gibbons’s works. She is a talented writer, who is, herself, bi-polar. Her works capture the reader who escapes ever so reluctantly at the end of each novel. Her writing is to be treasured. ( )
  BookConcierge | Feb 9, 2016 |
Excellent look at the affect of bipolar disorder on a family. Well written, with memorable characters and wit ( )
  lucybrown | Sep 27, 2015 |
Excellent look at the affect of bipolar disorder on a family. Well written, with memorable characters and wit ( )
  lucybrown | Sep 27, 2015 |
Excellent look at the affect of bipolar disorder on a family. Well written, with memorable characters and wit ( )
  lucybrown | Sep 27, 2015 |
In the minds of the good people of Bend of the River, North Carolina, the exotic Maggie Barnes is 'not right', 'flighty' or, put more politely, 'the Barnes woman with all her problems'. To Maggie's immediate family - her husband Frederick, son Freddy, and young daughter, Hattie - she is a maddening and beloved paradox: quite clearly depressive, yet also a beautiful, generous, satin-clad siren.

Maggie is at times vivacious and captivating, but at others she is infuriating, violent and heartless to those who love her. Through Hattie's now adult eyes, a devastatingly poignant portrait of her mother emerges - wry, irresistibly comic yet unsparing in its depiction of a child's despairing love for her mentally disturbed mother. Sights Unseen is also the story of the marvelous extended Barnes family. Each with their own strategies for dealing with the impossible Maggie, the members of the Barnes family struggle to understand her and to preserve a nurturing, loving family relationship with her.

I really enjoyed this book, although at certain points I found the story incredibly poignant. Sights Unseen by Kaye Gibbons clearly illustrates how mental illness affects the entire family, however I think that during my reading, I kept expecting the author to branch out more into the community with this story. I ultimately gave Sights Unseen by Kaye Gibbons an A! ( )
  moonshineandrosefire | Apr 11, 2013 |
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Epigraph
For there are dark streams in this dark world, lady, Gulf Streams and Arctic currents of the soul. -Conrad Aiken, Preludes for Memnon
Dedication
For Frank
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Had I known my mother was being given electroconvulsive therapy while I was dressing for school on eight consecutive Monday mornings, I do not think I could have buttoned my blouses or tied my shoes or located my homework.
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VIRAGO EDITION:
To the good citizens of Bend of the River, North Carolina, the exotic Maggie Barnes is 'not right', 'flighty' or, more politely, 'the Barnes woman with all her problems'. To her family, and most particularly her growing daughter Hattie, Maggie is a maddening and beloved paradox: quite clearly depressive, yet a beautiful, generous, satin-clad siren, vivacious and captivating, infuriating, violent and heartless.
Through Hattie's eyes a profoundly original and devastating portrait of her mother unfolds. Wry, irresistibly comic yet unsparing in its depiction of a child's despairing love, Sights Unseen is also the story of the marvellous extended Barnes family. With their separate strategies for dealing with the impossible Maggie, all are drawn with tenderness and humour and suffuse this extraordinary novel finally not with pain but with redemptive joy.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0399139869, Hardcover)

A young girl in a small town named Bend of the River Road struggles to understand her mentally disturbed mother and preserve their relationship. By the author of Charms for the Easy Life. 80,000 first printing. $70,000 ad/promo. BOMC & QPB selection.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 17:58:07 -0400)

(see all 5 descriptions)

A girl describes what it's like having a mother who is mentally ill. She is Hattie Barnes whose mother alternates between suicidal lows and delirious highs. One moment she is baking cookies in an attempt at normalcy, the next she is being dragged to bed to be sedated.… (more)

» see all 2 descriptions

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