I downloaded Living on A Rainbow for free from Amazon a little while ago, after reading a sample of the first chapter of the book. I was instantly captivated.
‘Living On A Rainbow’ is a story about mental health, bullying, growing up, battling against adversity but most of all it is a story about love. The love between a man and a woman. The love between a boy and his best friend. The love between a mother and her son and the love between a boy and his father.
Harry ‘H’ McCoy is not an ordinary boy and his life is not an ordinary life.
The cover perfectly illustrates where we find our main character, H, at the beginning of the story – stood on the edge of a bridge, both afraid and morbidly fascinated with heights. His best friend Andy at his side, trying to talk him down and convince him that his life isn’t over.
In Living on A Rainbow we re-live H’s rollercoaster life, rewinding the years from that precarious moment on the edge, back through his adulthood and teenage angst to where it all begins – with a happy child in a loving family and the kind of best friend we have all wished for.
As well as themes of mental illness, one of the most important messages in the book is that love for one another is one of the best gifts we have. Relationships form and fracture, as they do naturally throughout life, but we get to see the impact they truly have.
The first couple of chapters really drew me in. I wanted to learn what had happened to make H want to end his life. Then, as we experience H’s life from his childhood, I found the pace slowed. This isn’t a bad thing – it gives you the time to think and relate to his experiences. It grows on you. At the time, I thought the narrative would benefit from being broken down by chapters bringing us back to the present time, but having finished the book, I have changed my mind.
For me, the greatest revelation in the book comes right at the end – it’s how subtle/gradual a decline in mental state is. I will say now that I (luckily) have never experienced mental illness, although I have in my own way been able to relate to H towards the end. External influences are often attributed to stress in life and it isn’t always apparent that our perception or outlook has changed. In the past year I have had difficulty with bad mood swings as a result of a hormone imbalance. It took somebody else having a word with me to make me realise it was more than circumstantial. As far as I knew I was just having a bad time; I had job uncertainty and a close family member was recovering from illness. Naturally, I attributed my bad moods to these things. Having experienced what I have, I can hand-on-heart say that this has been written in a way that I strongly identify with. If anyone was to read this book as a means of understanding mental illness, I would say that this is an accurate representation of one of many mental illnesses out there.
I think Living on A Rainbow is an insightful read and I strongly recommend it to anyone interested in learning more. Inevitably, mental illness is a personal experience and differs between us all, so I would also recommend reading it in conjunction with other books of a similar nature in order to build a bigger picture.