The Sun King by Allison Lee Palmer

The Sun King

The Sun King

Author: Allison Lee Palmer

Genre: Biographies & Memoirs

Format: Paperback 284 pages

Release Date: 27 November 2017

Publisher: Open Books

My Rating: *****

This book was provided to me by Open Books. This is an honest review based on my personal opinions of the book. 


This book is a fictional memoir about a mother, and her son Jack, and the experiences the mother endures as her son rapidly declines while suffering with bipolar disorder. 

“When one goes to court to see if her son will be transferred to the mental hospital, she clears her schedule for the entire day”

Jack struggles with college and finds it hard to concentrate and apply himself unless it is on a subject of interest to him, and even then he focuses on the topic to the point of complete obsessiveness. Jack suffers with hallucinations, depression and lack of sleep which is all exaggerated by his refusal to take his medication. 

“If you don’t get healed in the small window of time before you turn eighteen; if you don’t get your shit together while you are still a minor, things can definitely take a turn for the worse”

The health care system fails Jack and he is released before he has stabilised and received the help he so desperately needs. The mother is at a loss for what to do next and finds herself struggling to cope.  

My Thoughts

This is a truly beautifully written book with the mothers unconditional love for her son radiating through the authors words throughout the book. This book moved me in ways I wasn’t expecting when I first started reading it. I had no idea reading the first few chapters quite where this book was going to take me and I couldn’t have anticipated the strong emotional reaction I felt when finishing it. I really sympathised with the mother. I felt her pain, I felt her suffering, I felt her loneliness. The author has such a way with words throughout the book that I really felt I was there living the experience with her. 

“Neither of us knew what was going to unfold, but I certainly thought this was the bottom, which is sometimes called rock bottom”

Although this book undeniably touches some very deep emotions, it is not without humour. The author uses some rather unusual metaphor’s throughout the book which help to lighten the tone at points whilst providing some memorable analogies, for example, at one point Jack’s rapid mental decline is likened to a skateboard falling.

“Lesson learned: when a skateboard starts careening down a hill, you can’t stop it”

I suspected whilst reading the book that the author either had personal experience of living with someone who suffers with their mental health or knows someone close to her that has shared their experiences as the descriptions she gives are so personally informative. It came to light in the acknowledgements section at the end that the author does indeed have a son who suffered to some extent with the issues the author writes about. 

“I thought to myself that it would be so easy to go home and pretend nothing had happened”

The author brings to light in this book a topic which is spoken about more and more now thanks to people’s willingness to share their stories and experiences. I want to thank the author for having the courage to open up about her experiences and share these with the world. I encourage anyone and everyone to read this book so we can all have a better understanding not only of what people with mental health struggle with, but also with what those close to these people experience. 

About the Author

Allison Lee Palmer received a B.A. in Art History from Mount Holyoke College and an M.A. and Ph.D. from Rutgers University. She has taught Renaissance and Baroque Art History in the School of Visual Arts at the University of Oklahoma for over twenty years and writes both academic texts and novels. Her recent research on a hand-painted Italian Renaissance sorting book is featured in her fictionalized memoir The Sun King.

Follow me on Twitter @BooksBucks

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