My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Goodreads: An unvarnished portrait of a marriage that is both ordinary and extraordinary, Dancing on Broken Glass takes readers on an unforgettable journey of the heart.
Lucy Houston and Mickey Chandler probably shouldn’t have fallen in love, let alone gotten married. They’re both plagued with faulty genes—he has bipolar disorder; she, a ravaging family history of breast cancer. But when their paths cross on the night of Lucy’s twenty-first birthday, sparks fly, and there’s no denying their chemistry.
Cautious every step of the way, they are determined to make their relationship work—and they put their commitment in writing. Mickey will take his medication. Lucy won’t blame him for what is beyond his control. He promises honesty. She promises patience. Like any marriage, there are good days and bad days—and some very bad days. In dealing with their unique challenges, they make the heartbreaking decision not to have children. But when Lucy shows up for a routine physical just shy of their eleventh anniversary, she gets an impossible surprise that changes everything. Everything. Suddenly, all their rules are thrown out the window, and the two of them must redefine what love really is.
My take: I have written the first sentence multiple times and I'm still struggling how to begin. I want to be careful so I don't give spoilers without warning so I might be vague. There are so many facets of this book that I loved. I'll start with the first thing that comes to my mind.
Mickey and Lucy are complex and wonderful people. We meet Lucy first as a child as she sees Death for the first time. Death is not a verb but a noun. Death is female and not frightening. She is comforting and peaceful. At the time, her father explained to her that Death is not scary or painful. Death is also not the end but a continuation. Dying might hurt but Death does not. A few days later, Death took her father. At the age of 17, Death also took her mother. Lucy knew Death was near and felt peaceful but sad.
Lucy is a package deal. She comes with sass and two sisters, Lily who is maternal in nature but childless and Priscilla who is career driven and has ice in her veins. All of the sisters are loyal to one another but stay true to their characters. Lucy is the youngest. All live with the fear of cancer and death (even though their father said Death is nothing to fear). Their DNA dictates that cancer will come again to the Houston girls.
Mickey is 8 years older than Lucy and comes with another package. He is funny, a good business man, charismatic and bipolar. Here's what I loved about Mickey - is more than his diagnosis and makes that clear to Lucy. He also makes it clear to Lucy that being with him will be heartbreaking. He will crash and he will hurt her. It is part of the illness. He is also honest and genuine. Their marriage is not a destination but part of the journey. They accept each other and their flaws, marry and continue on. That's what I loved about their relationship. They love each other and use that love to propel them forward. Mickey hits his cycles. He becomes manic, self-medicates, hits psychosis, he's hospitalized, stabilizes, and comes home. Lucy greets him, accepts him, respects him and continues to love him. Being bipolar is one part of who he is. He's also much more than that.
At the beginning of most chapters, Mickey provides a journal entry. It's usually short but clearly and concisely, with raw honesty describes his mood disorder in a way that a textbook can't. He provides a window for the reader to comprehend why his mood escalates to something uncontrollable and how he justifies adjusting his medication. Bipolar becomes much more than a diagnosis. It has a face and personality.
Cancer is also a part of Lucy. It doesn't define her but it is a part of her. Again, Hancock doesn't gloss over anything. The doctor tells Lucy she has cancer and then we journey through her treatment with her. One character provides a truth which applies to just about everything in life. The only way through is going through it. There are no shortcuts. There are no shortcuts to a happy marriage. There are no shortcuts through cancer treatment. There are no shortcuts through depression. There are no shortcuts through death or grief. The only way through is getting up in the morning, making it through the day, going to bed. Repeat. Eventually you're at the other side.
Hancock tackles some tough issues that are not foreign to the reader. Mental illness, marital happiness or discontent, commitment to marriage vows, love, illness, loss, grief, death, dying, faith, God, peace. Many of her ideas resonated for me. I also enjoyed having a book that did not have offensive material in it. Swearing is mild, much like my own mouth. Sex is included but within appropriate context. Dialogue centers around the issues.
There is much, much more that I want to say about this but I'm afraid of spoiling it.
The book is about believing in what really matters - family, marriage, love, and faith, regardless of what life hands you. It is beautifully written and I finished in tears but filled with hope.