Heartbreak and Hope: On Schizophrenia

Book review by Glenda Faye Mathes

Broken Pieces and the God Who Mends Them: Schizophrenia through a Mother’s Eyes by Simonetta Carr; published by P&R Publishing, Phillipsburg, New Jersey, 256 pages; © 2019

broken-piecesIn Broken Pieces and the God Who Mends Them, Simonetta Carr transparently shares the heartbreak and confusion of losing a son to schizophrenia, but she consistently points the reader to God who binds the wounds of the brokenhearted.

Jonathan was a brilliant young man, a chess whiz who had been accepted to multiple colleges, including West Point. He chose to attend Merced, near San Francisco and more than six hours north of his home in San Diego. But he fails two classes in his first semester and is expelled. His parents discover he’s been using marijuana, and eventually they realize that wasn’t the biggest problem. In fact, it may be his attempt to self-medicate his mental torment. The lights that once shone in his lively eyes dim and are replaced by a vacant stare. To his family, he already seems lost.

Schizophrenia may be the world’s most misunderstood mental illness, and Simonetta admits her own initial naïveté. After the diagnosis, she was happy to know what the problem was and assumed it could be treated. Some of her research revealed people who’d learned to live with the condition. She hopes Jonathan can do so too, while her husband longs for the return of their intelligent and adorable son.

As a caring parent, Simonetta struggles to determine the proper level and type of assistance she can offer. She’s a fierce advocate for Jonathan whenever possible, but must balance that with his independence and responsibility. A huge factor is how her desire to help is often frustrated by legal and medical systems protecting his adult autonomy. “He’s nineteen” was a constant refrain she heard. In other words, he was legally responsible for his own care and for making his own decisions, during a time when he was unable to do so.

The book contains not only Simonetta’s highly-personal account of Jonathan’s story, but also a second section aimed at providing support for helpers. Simonetta’s biblical wisdom shines in her thorough research and excellent writing. This second part of the book is an invaluable treasure of practical and specific advice, shaped by a thoroughly-biblical perspective.

Broken Pieces is the perfect title for this book because it functions on multiple levels. It’s a direct quotation from one of Jonathan’s poems (and I won’t spoil the tender surprise about Simonetta’s discovery of it and its meaning). Simonetta’s life and her family are broken along with Jonathan. The reader’s heart breaks for the Carr family and others who suffer the darkness of schizophrenia. But God is the One who can sustain and heal. Pray that may be His will for them all.

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