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Winner of the Award of Merit of the 2023 Christianity Today Book Awards — Fiction!
“Profound and compulsively readable.” —Silas House, author of Southernmost
New from a fresh voice in literary fiction comes this riveting deep-dive into one woman's experience with bipolar disorder and God.
Her mind has never failed her—until an ill-fated dinner party. Meet Dr. Susan Huffman: wife to chancery court judge Samuel Ellison, mother to adorable Ian, and college professor on track for tenure. She’s a woman who has always lived by her mind, with a plan and a purpose. But then new-in-town Lorraine Davis accepts an invitation to Susan and Samuel’s home, and the mysterious visions begin. Is God warning Susan about this newcomer? And if so, how can she protect her circle of friends, her family, and her life as she knows it? The Book of Susan is the spare and sympathetic recounting of a journey—from derailment, to diagnosis, to the discovery of a lifetime.
About the Author
A native of east Tennessee, poet and novelist Melanie K. Hutsell has been learning to live with bipolar disorder for more than fifteen years. She holds a BA in English from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, an MA in English from Indiana University at Bloomington, and an MBA from East Tennessee State University. A lay member of the United Methodist Church, an avid reader, and music lover, she currently resides in Oak Ridge, Tennessee.
“In The Book of Susan, Hutsell takes the mysteries of the highs and lows of bi-polar illness and skillfully intertwines them on the page. Written from the unique perspective of Susan—the one who discovers her diagnosis—it’s a page-turner of story and yet a book to be slowly studied for the genuine wisdom it reveals.” —Katherine James, author of Can You See Anything Now? and A Prayer for Orion
“Profound and compulsively readable, The Book of Susan complexifies typical notions of Appalachia and offers us an unforgettable character in lyrical and accessible prose. Hutsell is a literary stylist who knows how to keep the reader in her grip.” —Silas House, author of Southernmost
“A riveting first-person account of a woman’s realization that she suffers from Bipolar I disorder. Hutsell’s protagonist accepts, overcomes, and reinvents her life through her newfound faith, discovered quite by accident due to the disease’s delusions. ‘God fled me on those days,’ she tells us when her illness begins to tear apart her carefully planned life. But Susan emerges transformed, and without sanctimony gives an account of the power of spiritual seeking to pick up the shattered pieces of life. Anyone who encounters a mental disorder in themselves or a loved one will be gripped by this powerful, raw, honest and intriguing voice.” —Rita Sims Quillen, author of Wayland
"'I was alone in a body, in a place turned strange to me, and I had no earthly way to understand.' And with Susan’s own words about her devolving personality issues and life challenges, East Tennessee author Melanie K. Hutsell weaves an emotionally charged story about the tremendous challenges of navigating Bipolar Disorder I. In The Book of Susan, her second novel, Hutsell reveals intimate knowledge of her Appalachian setting juxtaposed with intriguing characters who make this walk with Susan. With her attention to detail and her commitment to accuracy, Hutsell writes a page turner filled with a griping story readers will follow to the end, an end that is one of understanding and perhaps hopeful, when Susan declares her 'membership in the fellowship of the flawed.' Hutsell fulfills a promise to be true to her story, with all its pain and life changes, while holding hope for tomorrow’s newness." —Sue Weaver Dunlap, poet and author of A Walk to the Spring House and Knead
"A superbly written novel dealing with major life challenges when the world goes dark. The very real to life experiences of Susan and Samuel jump off the page to cast light into the hearts and minds and longings of a family struggling to cope with fear, pain, isolation and abandonment. Creatively descriptive passages are deep and rich drawing the reader into the story. I found a bit of myself among the pages. A must read for anyone struggling with the terrifying disruption of out-of-control relationships in themselves or someone they love. The book deals with the challenges of dealing with bipolar disorder." —Rev. Caryl Griffin Russell, Clinical Specialist, Mental Health/Psych, Ordained United Methodist Minister