Reviewed by: Christine Wilson
Date posted: 07/28/2019
Broken Pieces and the God Who Mends Them: Schizophrenia through a Mother’s Eyes, by Simonetta Carr. P&R, 2019. Paperback, 368 pages, $12.00. Reviewed by OP member Christine Wilson.
“What do you do when you hear voices?” Jonathan Carr’s question to his mother illustrates the delusory nature of schizophrenia, as illusion and reality become indistinguishable. For his mother, the author of the book, interpreting the question is like peering into a dense fog. She sees muted but familiar contours and strains to glimpse the fading reality of who her son used to be. Her answer to him reveals her commitment to loving and serving her son with honesty: “I don’t hear voices….”
The first part of Simonetta Carr’s book chronicles her walk with Jonathan through that fog. The second part offers support and resources to those living with schizophrenia or to friends who come alongside.
Part 1 is raw and honest, a heart-breaking account of the progression of Jonathan’s illness. Schizophrenia, Carr writes, “doesn’t just erase a personality—it substitutes it with another” (13). Jonathan’s two-year battle, beginning in his late teens, was terrifying and exhausting and painful. She recounts the pain of his losing friends, and of friends losing him, of his desire for isolation and self-medication. She notes, however, that it was also a time laced with God’s grace. She writes of Jonathan’s conversations with his pastor and elders, of finding bits of his poetry that expressed faith in his Redeemer. She writes honestly of her struggles and failures concerning Jonathan’s care, of feeling angry and overwhelmed by the mysterious changes in her son, and of finding comfort in the Scriptures. She recalls King Jehoshaphat’s prayer in 2 Chronicles 20:12: “We are powerless against this great horde that is coming against us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you.” God’s answer to the king sustained her: “Do not be afraid and do not be dismayed at this great horde, for the battle is not yours but God’s…the LORD will be with you” (vs. 15, 17). Scripture was her daily reminder that “our limited experience doesn’t have the final word in establishing what is real” (344).
Part 2 is a trove of practical information and advice for caregivers and for brothers and sisters in Christ who want to come alongside in love to uphold the family in their sufferings. She helps navigate the often-maddening medical system that sometimes seems to prioritize patient privacy over patient care. She shares suggestions (her own and those she has collected from the medical community and friends) on early diagnosis and brain scans, medical treatment centers, treatment advocacy centers, medications, therapy, alternative therapies, counselors, psychiatrists—as well as thoughts on the benefit of work and the need to rest. She offers suggestions for those who desire to help and some practical tips for churches that might increase opportunities for those with schizophrenia to attend worship and enjoy fellowship.
God, Carr writes, “is greater than our minds, our circumstances, and our fears. Things are often not what they seem…We can’t see the full reality, but God does” (212).