Without Tess by Marcella Pixley
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Goodreads: Tess and Lizzie are sisters, sisters as close as can be, who share a secret world filled with selkies, flying horses, and a girl who can transform into a wolf in the middle of the night. But when Lizzie is ready to grow up, Tess clings to their fantasies. As Tess sinks deeper and deeper into her delusions, she decides that she can’t live in the real world any longer and leaves Lizzie and her family forever. Now, years later, Lizzie is in high school and struggling to understand what happened to her sister. With the help of a school psychologist and Tess’s battered journal, Lizzie searches for a way to finally let Tess go.
My take: This is a very well written book regarding the forgotten child in a family dealing with another with mental illness. Lizzie deals with much more than survivor's guilt. She has been negatively impacted by dealing with Tess' mental illness as a child. The subject matter is really best approached by a mature teenager to adult. There are disturbing themes as Tess experiences full out psychosis and lacks a conscience and believes in her alternate reality. Lizzie plays along until her maturity level dictates she change her social skills.
Another interesting aspect to this book is the overall idea of "magical thinking." Not only does the story deal with psychosis, the author provides an interesting parallel with religious beliefs. Lizzie's Jewish faith can not save Tess. Isobel's Christian faith can not save Tess. Later, Lizzie struggles with the ideas of her religious upbringing and wonders about other religious beliefs and magical thinking. It is interesting and a bit disturbing, I must admit. Watch the symbolism as the state of the crabs mirror Tess' mental state.
Well written with a fresh look on mental illness - the healthy sibling who is traumatized by the one who is mentally ill.