Dee by Sue Uden is a fantastically well written emotional tale of how one family member’s mental illness can affect a whole family unit in very different ways and their methods of coping with this frustrating and domineering situation that impacts on all of their lives.
Set in the 80's, with a reasonably small cast of main characters consisting of; Jackie who struggles with her mental illness and just wants help to go back to being the loving wife and mother she knows she can be and John is a really close and loving Dad to both his daughters, sad at the fact that his family’s life has been tainted by her illness and wants to write about it which he finds really cathartic. Nikkii, is a loving Mother to both Jackie and her other daughter Claire, who is enjoying spending creative writing time with her father, is actually jealous and angry because of the attention that her sister’s illness gets in the family. And lovely Marjorie, whose caring and understanding ways helped Jackie a great deal and in turn everyone to cope with this very trying situation.
The book is about a confused yet extremely loving family dealing with very hard circumstances in the only way they can. When the medical world don’t seem to be able to help Jackie, it’s even more infuriating until a new doctor is assigned to the case and radical changes impact on their lives once more. An unexpected twist has an even more extreme impact on a family who was already under a great deal of stress and it was interesting to see which way this would affect the family unit further.
The perfect ending to this book had me sitting with tears streaming down my fact but they weren’t particularly tears of sadness. They were tears of love and loss and understanding and hope. This book was fundamentally about family and the overwhelming and unquestionable love they have for each other with the mental illness issue as a background issue which impacted upon them all.
This book certainly opened up my eyes to the trauma that mental illness can have on a family and certainly made me more understanding. It also made me realise the things that in a family we take very much for granted. If, through this book, Sue Uden’s story can do that for many other people then she really has done an amazing job. It was a pleasure to read, and despite the tears, was a thoroughly enjoyable book.
Sue Uden was born in 1946. She has had a diverse career including spells as a PA, a doctors’ receptionist, a journalist for the John Lewis Partnership and teaching assistant in Primary School.
Along the way she has published some freelance articles and short stories. Dear
Dee is her first novel. She is married with two children and four grandchildren.