• Sahar Abdulaziz

Book Review: Jamie's Children by Susan Moore Jordan

The music was paramount; always serve the muse.” –Jamie’s Children, Susan Moore Jordan

For many, music can represent so much more than a mere cacophony of sounds. For them, music is the heartbeat of life, the air in breath, and the illuminating light in vision. The melodic blending of sensations and sounds all touching the soul in so many ways that they can either mend the broken or sear the compromised. Author Susan Moore Jordan, in her latest novel, Jamie’s Children does just that. She seamlessly guides her readers through a maze of emotions with characters who use their love of music and one another as milestones and beacons, despite the many hardships they encounter along the way.

The story exquisitely expounded on quite a few intimate human relationships. Mother-father-brother-sister-lovers alike. It explored the strength and bonds needed to nurture a family as well as the frailties and disappointments of interpersonal relationships facing obstacles and hurdles, such as depression, loneliness, insecurities, jealousy, but most of all, the erratic behavior and thought patterns of someone in the midst of battling a Bipolar Disorder.

In the story, Niall found himself facing the many highs and lows of countless bipolar flares, but unfortunately, he went through most of his life undiagnosed. And like so many suffering from easily concealed mood disorders he blamed himself for the disease process. Living among a household of super achievers only served to exacerbate Niall’s feelings of mediocrity and his constant desire to prove himself. –A father whose very name made hearts flutter in the opera world, a mother of exceptional intellect, and a stunningly beautiful and kind sister who was a music prodigy. And despite the way they loved and rallied in his favor, the Bipolar disease still made accepting help and direction extremely difficult, –and at times, even impossible.

Yet this author did something I believe to be quite extraordinary. Not only did she show in detail how Niall, desperate for relief began to self-medicate using alcohol and sexual liaisons, but she bravely revealed to the reader not only the lows of suffering with a mood disorder, but the highs as well, –Because as strange as it might seem, there is a positive side of living with depression or an anxiety disorder. “Eric G. Wilson, the author of Against Happiness: In Praise of Melancholy, maintained that there was a critical need for sadness to exist and be recognized rather than run from or stamped out.” [But You LOOK Just Fine, Abdulaziz/Sveilich]

In the story, Laura, Niall’s sister, quoted her friend and mentor, Eli Levin to describe the level of impact music can have on the soul, “…It wasn’t unusual to sometimes have a bad day and feel I couldn’t play at all…he said “One of the things that makes music so exciting is that we’ve all had to struggle at times. Because the breakthroughs are so glorious. And he was right.” –[Jamie’s Children, Moore-Jordan]

Some of this world’s most respected, adored and imaginative people live with depression or some other form of mental disorder. –Well-known writers such as Tennessee Williams, Virginia Woolf, William Faulkner and Earnest Hemingway, to name but a few. Musicians and composers, poets, actors and even comedians can also be added to the long list of creatives who have also been affected, and yet, without romanticizing clinical depression or anxiety, they still managed to use their condition to live a more thoughtful and profound existence. “And while the pain of living with any kind of mental disorder can leave one vulnerable and hurt, there is also a scientifically proven relationship between brilliance and depression, despair and gloom and yes, –greatness! This would then suggest that a significant number of successful cultural groundbreakers in our history and midst have found a good portion of their originality in their despondent moods.’ [But You LOOK Just Fine, Abdulaziz/Sveilich]

Jamie’s Children is a tender story of familial love, commitment, and respect. The author’s lovely melodic writing style gently nudges one along the story path, while enveloping their heart with wisdom and grace, –a most pleasurable read.

About the Author

When Susan Moore Jordan was a high school student in the mid nineteen-fifties in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, a close friend went through a shattering event just as she was preparing to audition for the high school’s annual musical. Decades later Jordan used that experience of tragedy to triumph to write her first novel, How I Grew Up, in 2013. Two additional novels followed: Eli’s Heart in 2014 and You Are My Song in 2015, completing “The Carousel Trilogy.” A fourth novel, Jamie’s Children, was released in July, 2016. All of her novels are drawn from her life experiences as a voice teacher and stage director and are inspired by real people she has encountered.

Jordan attended the College-Conservatory of Music in Cincinnati and moved to the Pocono Mountains in Pennsylvania in 1971 with her late husband and three young children, where she established a private voice studio in 1979. Her students have gone on to leading schools of music and opera or musical theater companies around the world.

Beginning in 1984, Jordan directed some eighty local community and high school musical theater productions. She retired from directing in 2015 after over thirty years and wrote about her adventures in “More Fog, Please”: Thirty-One Years Directing Community and High School Musicals, released in November, 2015.

All of her books are available on Amazon in paperback, and the novels are also available as Kindle editions. Paperback copies of Jordan’s books can be purchased locally at the Pocono Cinema and Community Center in East Stroudsburg whenever the theater is open.

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