Review: Ben Behind His Voices: One Family’s Journey From the Chaos of Schizophrenia to Hope
By Randye Kaye
Rowman and Littlefield Publishers
Hardcover, 320 pages, $26.95; Kindle, $9.99
Reviewed by Molly Remer
Ben Behind His Voices is a mother’s poignant memoir of her young adult son’s struggle with paranoid schizophrenia. It was instantly engaging and kept my attention throughout. The author, Randye Kaye, is a radio personality and voice actress and the mother of two children. When her oldest child, Ben, is 17 he begins exhibiting increasingly strange, confusing, and disturbing symptoms. After being shuttled through a variety of diagnoses and treatment providers while steadily becoming worse, he is diagnosed at age 21 with schizophrenia. Randye is obviously a devoted parent to Ben and a committed advocate for her son and the book chronicles a roller coaster of experiences with psychiatric hospitalizations, medication challenges, bright spots of hope, relapses, group home placements, and readjustments of expectations. Perhaps most touching are her struggles to accept the “new normal” of her family’s life and to let go of her old expectations and hopes for her son, while still celebrating the caring and worthwhile person he is, albeit one who is coping with a formidable disability.
A particularly nice feature of this book are the textboxes inset throughout containing facts and information for family members of those with mental illnesses. Much of this information is based on Family-to-Family peer support materials from the National Alliance on Mental Illness (Randye becomes a trainer for this program).
Though written about very emotional events, there is a dispassionate quality to the writing that kept me from feeling fully connected to the narrator.
A fascinating character study as well as an exploration of family adaptation and coping skills, Ben Behind His Voices would be a particularly interesting read for students in psychology, social work, or human services as well as anyone who has a family member with a mental illness. As a mother of young sons, Ben Behind His Voices was a difficult book to read—Randye’s thoughts and reflections about her own son as a young boy, made me look at my own little guys with a pang of “what if.”
Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book for review purposes.