Book by: Jessie Close with Pete Earley
Review by: Katherine Resler
Academic Advising Center
University of Iowa
With mental health issues on college campuses demanding more awareness and attention, Jessie Close’s timely memoir provides the reader with a new level of understanding for those experiencing mental illness. Younger sister of actress Glenn Close, Jessie spares no details in sharing her experience, from her diseases earliest manifestations, highest highs and lowest lows
Born into privilege, with ties to some of Greenwich, Connecticut’s most influential families, Close lived a charmed yet lonely childhood. In 1953, the Close family became members of the Moral Re-Armament movement, eventually relocating to the group’s headquarters in Caux, Switzerland. The MRA had a profound effect on Jessie, as she grappled with feelings of abandonment, while bouncing from Switzerland, Connecticut, Democratic Republic of the Congo and finally California, after her parents revoked their parental rights. By the time Close was 17, she was married and living a life fueled by drugs and alcohol. Her 20’s were chaotic as she bounced around the United States and India, collecting husbands and houses. As her alcohol and drug use increased her life spiraled out of control and she spent the next several decades chasing the next high and trying to avoid the creature in her head. After her eldest son, Calen, was diagnosed with a serious mental illness, Jessie was finally able to seek the help she desperately needed.
Close focuses much of the early story on her family’s history and potential links to mental illness, notably including a story about her maternal great uncle, Seymour Worrall Hyde, who was declared insane. Much of this history though, is focused on her father’s family, which had a long history of absenteeism and a reluctance to express emotion. A nature vs. nurture argument naturally comes from this history, was Close experiencing early signs of mental illness or simply acting out due to a unstable home environment? It can be hard at times, to separate her feelings of abandonment, resentment and increasing substance abuse for what are early signs of mental illness. In fact, so difficult, that even her physician father could not see the signs.
Wealth and privilege play a prominent role in Close’s life, making it difficult for the average reader to connect with her. At an early age she began to receive benefits from the Hyde Family Trust (set up by the insane uncle), and later she would also have assistance from her sister, who provided money, connections and employment. Due to this, Close had no need to seek stability, education, or traditional employment and escaped many of the common problems that Americans with mental illness face, such as poverty, homelessness and poor or no health care.
Included in the book are several vignettes, written by Glenn Close, providing the reader with an outside perspective of Close’s early life. Glenn admits that she never suspected her sister had a mental illness, despite several suicide attempts and an unstable life. Mostly, she reflects on the family dynamic and her guilt for leaving Close alone when she most needed family.
Resilience provides the reader with an eye-opening look into life with mental illness and the impact it has on families and society as well as trying to break the stigma of mental illness. With mental health concerns amongst college students rising and becoming a more important part of student success, Resilience is an insightful read to help advisors and higher education professionals understand a little more about the mindset and behaviors of those living with mental health issues.
Resilience. (2015). Book by Jessie Close with Pete Earley. Review by Katherine Resler. New York: NY, Grand Central Publishing. 301pp. 0.00. (Paperback), ISBN Advanced Copy