Sights Unseen

Kaye Gibbons (1995)

I love this author. Her writing is honest and true, and her characters speak to me in a way that I find touching. After finishing one of her stories, I feel as though I know the characters.

Sights Unseen is a daughter’s remembrance of a mother whose manic depression rocked the family for the majority of her childhood. Told primarily in flashbacks, the turning point in the life of this family occurs in 1967, when Hattie, the narrator, is 13 years old and her mother, Maggie, suffers a manic episode of such severity that she has to be committed for treatment.

I enjoyed following the dynamics of this family’s relationships–the way Maggie seemed to be the only one able to deal with the domineering patriarch of the family, Hattie’s grandfather, who’s always referred to as Mr. Barnes, and how each member of the family reacted differently to the warning signs preceding Maggie’s episodes. But most moving to me was the changing relationship between mother and daughter. Hattie’s childhood is spent virtually motherless, so when Maggie returns home after months of therapy, electroshock treatments and a prescription medication, the teenage Hattie must adapt to her new role as a daughter.

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