SANDY’S GIFT: WALKING WITH THE LIGHT (Cedar Forge, 2017, softcover) by William P. Dunn IV is an intimate and shocking true story that tells of the tragic plight of Sandra Dunn, a mother and loving wife whose life takes a tragic turn when she suddenly falls victim to severe mental illness; how the healthcare profession and the law prevented her from getting the treatment she needed; how it destroyed her family and nearly got them killed. By sharing his story, Dunn hopes that people will have a better understanding of the ravages of mental illness and know how to cope with them better.
As an interviewer and writer, my focus is on hearing and giving wings to the stories of others. Sometimes, like with Sandy's Gift, I have the opportunity to read a book that offers me this same experience. I was delighted to be selected to review Sandy's Gift as it opened my eyes to a struggle I have not personally faced and gave me some insight into what those I know going through this struggle might be dealing with.
The author has not just focused on one difficult time in his journey. Dunn offers up his life's memoir so we can understand what his early life was like, how he met his wife, what drew him to her and the many wonderful times they experienced both before and after they welcomed two beautiful daughters into their lives.
Once the reader understands the beauty of their life together, the contrast that occurs as his wife begins to struggle with mental illness becomes so very clear. The family lived at first in denial that anything serious was wrong. Then when a crisis moment changed that opinion, they had to deal with the inability of the mental health system. There were those who clearly understood she needed residential treatment and did their best to make it happen, but in the end a court ruling went against their medical advice and she was sent home. The social agency that was supposed to be making home visits and assure she was following court mandated guidelines for her release mostly dropped out of the picture.
My heart goes out to Dunn and his two girls who had to walk this terrible path watching the woman they love disappear, unable to find help or guidance. Those who should have assisted them were unable or unwilling. This had to be a hard book to write as it meant revisiting both the good moments lost and the difficulties faced.
For anyone dealing with mental illness - either family or friend - this is a story you will be able to relate to. You are not alone. For others, this is a window into how those around you need to be supported.
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Meet the Author -
William P. Dunn IV worked on Wall Street in the U.S. Government bond market where he worked his way up from the back office to the trading desks. After twenty years on Wall Street, he became a financial advisor in northern New Jersey. He continues to work as an investment advisor. He is a graduate of Thiel College where he earned a dual degree in Economics and Business Administration. Today he lives in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida and is a proud grandfather.