Mini book review: Perfect Chaos by Linea Johnson & Cinda Johnson

27 Aug
Book description from
A dual memoir of a mother’s and daughter’s triumph over mental illness.
The Johnsons were a close and loving family living in the Seattle area – two parents, two incomes, two bright and accomplished daughters. They led busy lives filled with music lessons, college preparation, career demands, and laughter around the dinner table. Then the younger daughter, Linea, started experiencing crippling bouts of suicidal depression. Multiple trips to the psych ward resulted in a diagnosis of bipolar disorder, and it took many trial runs of drugs and ultimately electroshock therapy to bring Linea back. But her family never gave up on her. And Linea never stopped trying to find her way back to them.
Perfect Chaos is the story of a mother and daughter’s journey through mental illness towards hope. From initial worrying symptoms to long sleepless nights to cross-country flights and the slow understanding and rebuilding of trust, Perfect Chaos tells Linea and Cinda’s harrowing and inspiring story, of an illness that they conquer together every day. It is the story of a daughter’s courage, a mother’s faith, and the love that carried them through the darkest times.


My mother-in-law recently heard Linea and Cinda Johnson’s interview on NPR. She was captivated by the story of a young woman (Linea) who, not unlike her daughter-in-law, had fought a brutal fight with bipolar disorder. (And is winning the battle, I might add.) The book is told by the teenager who rapidly cycles between major depression and extreme mania and her mother who is torn apart by the crippling feeling of being so many miles away from her daughter when she needs her most.

Being so moved by the interview, my sweet mother-in-law immediately ran out and bought the book. I received it this past Friday and devoured it in two days. (I would have read it faster, but you know, with two little ones running around demanding food and water at times, I had to take breaks.)


Was it tough to read at times? Yes. Did it remind me of my manic episodes and hospitalizations? Yes. Did it make me cringe when I read Cinda’s accounts of what she and her husband went through to figure out what was going on with their incredibly talented younger daughter because those are some of the same emotions that I’m sure ran through my parent’s minds as they struggled for understanding when I first got sick? YES.


But I loved it so much. It made me want to tell all my friends and family to go buy it right now and read it. Read it so you’ll understand what I went through. Read it so you will understand what my family was dealing with when I was sick. Read it so you’ll know what an incredible husband I was lucky enough to marry. Read it so that you’ll have a better understanding of mental illness. Please. Read it.


There were so many parts of the book that made me whisper, “it was that way for me, too,” and “her time in the hospital sounds just like how my time in the nuthouse went.”


Here is the review I wrote on Barns & Noble and

This book is an amazing recollection of the trauma and stress a family
goes through when their daughter is suffering from and is ultimately
diagnosed with a mental illness. It takes you day by day through their
raw emotions and fragile feelings, so much so, that you feel as though
you are right there with them, fighting as hard as they were to keep
Linea alive and stable. Their story hits home hard for me, as it is
strikingly similar to my own. Reading Cinda’s words was difficult for
me, as I couldn’t help but think that those were the same emotions and
fears that my own parents experienced when I was first hospitalized. I
related so strongly to Linea’s descriptions of what her mind was
thinking during her darkest times. I would recommend this book to
anyone, not just a family dealing with a family member who has a mental
illness. It provides an insightful education to a normal person on what
someone who lives with a mental illness goes through and how support
from friends and family can mean the difference between life and death.


I am so proud of them for standing up and telling their stories. It is a goal of mine to someday share my story too. Reading their book made me even more excited to finish mine. Linea’s story is so incredible to me because she is so brave.


I want to be brave like Linea. I want to bare my soul to the world someday because I want people to know that mental illness is real and sometimes scary, but that it is possible to be a successful, loving, fun, caring, and healthy person even when you have a diagnosis like bipolar disorder. A great mom, even. I am.

So. I signed up to attend a writer’s conference in November. I am thrilled. It’s going to be just the kick-in-the-ass I need to finally finish my manuscript so that I can query literary agents.

I’ll get there someday. I’ll attain my dream of becoming a published author. One step at a time.


4 Responses to “Mini book review: Perfect Chaos by Linea Johnson & Cinda Johnson”

  1. trophydaughter August 28, 2012 at 11:46 pm #

    Thanks for the book review. We need more success stories, particularly ones where the parents are so courageous, never give up and never let go. I think how different my sister’s life might have been with that kind of love. Good luck with your own memoir. Follow your dream!

    • BipolarMomLife August 29, 2012 at 8:23 am #

      Thank you so much for commenting! Just skimmed through your blog and am eager to learn more about your story, too. (I’m running out the door to my bloodwork appt right now, or else I’d read more!). Our stories are ones that need to be told. Thank you for blogging about yours, and for your encouragement of my dream.

  2. bipolarmoms August 28, 2012 at 3:13 am #

    I love the reviews; I’m going to get the book. More than that, I love that you’re so inspired again! Keep writing. Imagine what impact YOUR story could have on the lives of others.

    • BipolarMomLife August 28, 2012 at 8:29 am #

      Thank you, Nicole! I just had a few minutes to catch up on your blog too and I am so proud of you for recognizing you needed to take some time to get well. I’m so happy to read that you’re doing better and I’m thankful that you continue to blog about your journey too. Our stories are ones that need to be shared. We are helping, I truly believe that.

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